published Saturday, May 18th, 2013

Drawing tonight for a record Powerball jackpot that is soaring higher than $600 million

Mariah Layne, right, rings up lottery tickets as Kristy Nunley mans the register Friday at the Mapco Fast Food & Fuel on Dayton Blvd.
Mariah Layne, right, rings up lottery tickets as Kristy Nunley mans the register Friday at the Mapco Fast Food & Fuel on Dayton Blvd.
Photo by Angela Lewis.
Poll
Do you plan to buy a Powerball ticket?

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: Step right up. By the end of today, you might turn $2 into $1 million. Or maybe even $600 million.

The Powerball lottery jackpot is soaring high, higher than it ever has before. $600 million.

Powerball officials are going to draw six numbers tonight, and if they happen to be your six numbers, you could start shopping for a fleet of Ferraris. Or maybe tickets for a space voyage on the Virgin Galactic.

Or maybe you want to buy Nick Saban's mansion on Lake Burton in Clayton, Ga. The one with the 24-foot-high ceilings and the wine cellar and the special rooms for your live-in staff. Oh, yeah: the one that justifies having a live-in staff.

Or maybe you want all those things, the fleet of Ferraris and the space trips and the Chateau de Saban. You could go for it. Why not? You'd still have about $588 million left over, not counting those pesky taxes.

Six months ago, a couple of lucky souls in Arizona and Missouri split a $587.5 million jackpot. So yes, you might have to split this.

Everyone is fighting for the right ticket. Sreenu Pamidi at Mack's Hi-way Market guessed about three or four times as many people stood in line for tickets on Friday afternoon than they do on a normal day.

And Anita Altman at Mega Star Food Mart in Ringgold, Ga., said people are buying tickets in bunches. Five at a time. Even people who don't normally play the game are jumping in -- even her.

"Everyone wants that money," she said.

In the lottery game, times are good. Rebecca Hargrove, president and CEO of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp., said just this year the Powerball jackpot has jumped past $200 million three times.

There have been some changes in the system, she said.

For a long time there have been two high-rolling lotteries: Mega Millions and Powerball. And there were two types of states: Mega Millions states and Powerball states.

But in the last 21/2 years, Hargrove said, Powerball has moved to Mega Millions states, and Mega Millions has moved to Powerball states. Just last month, Powerball hit California.

And last year, the price to play doubled. It used to cost $1. Now it costs $2. Just like that, the jackpots doubled.

More folks are playing both games, and the winnings are growing.

"What people perceive as a big jackpot has changed with time," Hargrove says. "So you have to change to keep giving them something to be excited about."

If you're the lucky $600 million winner, you can get the money in slices for the next 29 years or settle for $376 million up front, after taxes. There are nine lesser prizes. In all, Hargrove says, you have a 1-in-32 chance of winning some money.

The odds of winning it all? One in 175 million. But it just takes one ticket. The right ticket. So step right up.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.

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