AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The Powerball jackpot Saturday night could exceed the $600 million figure being advertised, possibly rivaling the largest lottery payoff in U.S. history, a Texas Lottery official said on Saturday.
“Oftentimes, the advertised amount is lower than what the actual jackpot ends up being,” said Kelly Cripe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Lottery. “It’s entirely possible this $600 million jackpot will end up being a bigger jackpot.”
Chances of winning the Powerball on Saturday were one in 175 million, Cripe said, but that did not deter people from buying up tickets at staggering rates. California was selling $1 million in tickets every hour on Saturday, said Donna Cordova, a spokeswoman for the California Lottery, which has only been selling Powerball tickets since April 8.
Texas Lottery officials reported $1.2 million in hourly sales between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. local time, with ticket sales for the Saturday draw topping $18.4 million.
The ticket sale rate on Saturday was nearly double Friday’s rate, Cripe said, and a jump of some 686 percent over last Saturday.
The Powerball lottery, which has not had a winner in two months, is offered in 43 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
A Powerball lottery record was set in November with a $587.5 million jackpot that topped the $550 million figure that was advertised, thanks to last-minute sales.
The largest jackpot in U.S. history was the $656 million in the Mega Millions lottery in March 2012. That prize was split between winners in Maryland, Kansas and Illinois.
If Saturday’s Powerball drawing yields no winner, all records will be shattered as the jackpot for Wednesday’s drawing would go to $925 million.
Many Americans were playing the “if I win” game ahead of Saturday’s drawing.
“If I win, I‘m going to spend a lot of it on liquor, women and gambling,” said Austin lawyer Donald Dickson. “I’ll likely squander the rest of it.”
In New York City, talent acquisition agent Michelle Amici was more philanthropic.
“Not sure that I’d buy anything,” she said. “Rather, I’d attempt to quench my wanderlust by traveling the world. I’d also donate a large portion to education reform.”
Lottery players such as Austin marketing professional Becky Arreaga was not discouraged by the long odds.
“As long as the odds are 1 in anything, I‘m in,” said Arreaga, a partner at Mercury Mambo marketing firm. “I truly believe I could be the one.”
“It’s only a couple bucks for a small daydream,” said Russell Williams, 35, a salesman in Austin, Texas.
Bonnie Carreno of El Paso, Texas, rarely plays but was taking a chance on this one. “I only ever buy a ticket when I see the amazing numbers in the headlines,” she said.
The $2 tickets allow players pick five numbers from 1 to 59, and a Powerball number from 1 to 35. The numbers will be drawn Saturday at 10:59 p.m. EDT (0259 GMT on Sunday) in Tallahassee, Florida.
Reporting by Karen Brooks; Editing by Greg McCune, Doina Chiacu and Bill Trott