Feb 19 (Reuters) - Powerball ticket buyers lined up at corner groceries and gas stations on Wednesday with visions of hitting the $400 million jackpot in the U.S. lottery that hasn't had a top prize winner since Christmas.
The drawing scheduled for 10:59 p.m. EST on Wednesday (3:59 a.m., Thursday, GMT) is a chance to win the sixth-largest prize in U.S. lottery history and the fourth-largest for Powerball, according to a spokesperson for the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs the game.
The top prize amount has been swelling since the last jackpot on Christmas Day, and it has rolled over 15 times and increased in value after each drawing since then, said Carolyn Hapeman, Powerball spokeswoman in New York.
Most recently, there was no winner in Saturday's $330 million prize, which grew to a $400 million jackpot for Wednesday night's drawing.
If the winner opts to take Wednesday night's prize as a lump sum, it would amount to $227.8 million, the website said.
In the last two years, Powerball prizes have increased considerably, due to ticket prices doubling, from $1 to $2, and California, the nation's most populous state, joining 42 other states, Washington and the U.S. Virgin Islands in playing the game.
The chance of claiming the jackpot is one in 175 million, regardless of how many tickets a person buys.
The biggest winner in the history of Powerball took home $590 million before taxes after purchasing a winning ticket in May 2013 in Florida.
The Powerball website said the average jackpot winnings are roughly $255 million and about 70 percent of winners buy their tickets with computer generated numbers. (Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson)