ST. LOUIS (AP) — After 35 straight drawings without a big winner, Powerball players on Wednesday are lining up for a shot at a near-record jackpot worth an estimated $1.73 billion.
If winning numbers are drawn, it would be the second largest of any lottery prize ever, topped only by the $2.04 billion Powerball won by a player in California last November. The previous No. 2 was a $1.586 billion Powerball with three winners in California, Florida and Tennessee on Jan. 13, 2016.
Powerball’s terrible odds of 1 in 292.2 million are designed to generate big jackpots, with prizes becoming ever larger as they repeatedly roll over when no one wins. And wins in recent months have been few and far between.
That didn’t bother those eager to plunk down their money for a long-shot chance at instant wealth.
Robert Salvato Jr., a 60-year-old electrician, bought 40 Powerball tickets at a hardware store in Billerica, Massachusetts.
“I would take care of family and give my cat that extra leg that she needs and make her a good kitty,” said Salvato, who got married on Saturday.
“I could give her a ring on every finger, I guess,” Salvato said of his new wife.
Nevada is among the five states without Powerball, so friends Tamara Carter and Denise Davis drove from Las Vegas across the state line into California to buy tickets. But the line was so long at their first stop that they gave up and went in search of another store.
“The line was about three hours long,” Carter estimated. “I was waiting for maybe a half hour, and it didn’t move.”
The jackpot has grown enormous due to a long dry spell. The previous winning Powerball ticket was sold on July 19, and it was worth $1.08 billion after 39 drawings without a jackpot win.
At the same hardware store as Salvato, Kevin Button seemed to understand the long odds as he bought a ticket.
“I only buy them usually when the jackpot’s high,” Button said. “Seems to have been pretty high quite often lately. So I’ve tried quite a few times and haven’t even won a free ticket. But maybe tonight’s the night.”
In most states, a Powerball ticket costs $2 and players can select their own numbers or leave that task to a computer.
The $1.73 billion jackpot is for a sole winner who opts for payment through an annuity, doled out over 30 years. Winners almost always take the cash option, which for Wednesday night’s drawing is estimated at $756.6 million.
Winnings would be subject to federal taxes, and many states also tax lottery winnings.
Powerball is played in 45 states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.