The Powerball jackpot has grown to a record $425 million, sending millions of Americans to supermarkets, shops, gas stations and other ticket outlets to buy lottery tickets before Wednesday's drawing.
None of the $2-apiece tickets matched the winning numbers in a drawing of the multistate game Saturday night, when the jackpot was an estimated $325 million.
The estimated $425 million up for grabs on Wednesday in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands could get bigger if sales boom before the drawing.
Americans' rush to buy tickets is "no surprise," because such a large jackpot causes "a lot of excitement," says Ed Van Petten, executive director of the Minnesota State Lottery.
"It's a fairly cheap purchase, and people see winning the large jackpot as a dream that could come true," says Van Petten, who expects up to 2 million people - about 40% of the state's population - to spend, together, about $4 million buying Powerball tickets for Wednesday's drawing.
The previous top Powerball windfall - claimed by eight employees of a Nebraska meat-packing plant - was $365 million in 2006.
The biggest U.S. payout was $656 million - shared by three winning tickets in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland - in a March Mega Millions drawing.
The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot: 1 in 175 million, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association. All profits from Powerball games are kept by the state that sells the ticket, the association says.
Sales for Wednesday's Powerball drawing "will be crazy," says Chuck Baumann, a spokesman for the Oregon Lottery. "Anytime it's a record payout, we will start seeing lines at a customer service or self-service ticket terminals."
Since Oct. 6, the start of the roll-up to Wednesday's $425 million jackpot, Powerball sales in New York have exceeded $76.7 million, says Carolyn Hapeman, a spokeswoman for the New York Lottery.
Kimberly Chopin, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Lottery, says Powerball sales in the state on one day - Saturday, Nov. 24 - were $2.1 million.
In Connecticut on Sunday, lottery enthusiasts arrived in the wee hours of the morning to check the winning numbers in Saturday's drawing and, after learning there was no winner, began buying tickets for Wednesday's bigger jackpot.
Ticket buyers arrived just after 6:30 a.m. when the Dodgingtown Market in Dodgingtown, Conn., opened, says store manager Joey Bajon.
John Bergquist, another manager at the store, says many customers buy 10-20 tickets for big jackpots like the one for Wednesday. Big jackpots also attract others "who don't even know what they're doing" and need instructions on how to play Powerball, he says.
At a Citgo gas station in Bethel, Conn., on Sunday, Janet Phillips bought two tickets for Wednesday's Powerball drawing and said she will return to buy a few more.
Phillips says that, if she wins, she plans to give the winnings to her son and grandchildren for college educations.
Another Bethel resident, Jim Hart Jr., says he will buy about 15 tickets on Tuesday.
Hart says 11 relatives and friends have died in the past two years, and he'd like to win the lottery to assist relatives and friends of the deceased.
"I've had eight surgeries for my heart, and with things so tough with jobs and the economy, I'd like give the winnings to family and friends," he says.
Kyle Trudeau, the clerk at the Bethel gas station, says he won't be buying a ticket for Wednesday's drawing, but sales have been strong.
"Everybody's after that big fish in the pond," he says.
Gary Stoller, USA TODAY