It's all about the odds, and one lone ticket in Florida has beaten them all by matching each of the numbers drawn for the highest Powerball jackpot in history at an estimated $590.5 million, lottery officials said Sunday.
The single winner was sold at a supermarket in Zephyrhills, Fla., according to Florida Lottery executive Cindy O'Connell. She told The Associated Press by telephone that more details would be released later.
"This would be the sixth Florida Powerball winner and right now, it's the sole winner of the largest ever Powerball jackpot," O'Connell told AP. "We're delighted right now that we have the sole winner."
She said Florida has had more Powerball winners than any other state.
The winner was not immediately identified publicly and O'Connell did not give any indication just hours after Saturday's drawing whether anyone had already stepped forward with that winning ticket.
The most recent Florida Powerball winner was Christopher McGurran of St. Petersburg, who was victorious in a $50 million jackpost on Dec. 26, 2012, according to the Florida Lottery. He took a payout of $32.4 million.
Before that, Ines Carvajal of Kissimmee won an $182 million jackpot in February 2011 and claimed a payout of $91.2 million, according to the Florida Lottery.
With four out of every five possible combinations of Powerball numbers in play, lottery executives said earlier that someone was almost certain to win the game's highest jackpot, a windfall of hundreds of millions of dollars — and that's after taxes.
Saturday night's winning numbers were 10, 13, 14, 22 and 52, with a Powerball of 11.
Estimates had earlier put the jackpot at around $600 million. But Powerball's online site said Sunday that the jackpot had reached an estimated $590.5 million.
Terry Rich, CEO of the Iowa Lottery, initially confirmed that one Florida winning ticket had been sold. He told AP that following the Florida winner, the Powerball grand prize was being reset at an estimated jackpot of $40 million, or about $25.1 million cash value.
The chances of winning the prize were astronomically low: 1 in 175.2 million. That's how many different ways you can combine the numbers when you play. But lottery officials estimated that about 80 percent of those possible combinations had been purchased recently.
While the odds are low for any one individual or individuals, O'Connell said, the chance that one hits paydirt is what makes Powerball an "exciting game to play."
"There is just the chance that you will have the opportunity and Florida is a huge Powerball state. We have had more winners than any other state that participates in Powerball."
Such longshot odds didn't deter people across Powerball-playing states — 43 plus Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands — from lining up at gas stations and convenience stores Saturday for their chance at striking it filthy rich.
Calls by AP to the Publix supermarket outlet in Florida where the winning ticket was sold were not answered Sunday.
Elsewhere, Rich said, lottery officials reported 33 winning tickets for a $1,000,000 prize each were sold around 17 states, led by six tickets in New York. He said lotteries reported 2 winning tickets each for the $2,000,000 PowerPlay, one in New York and the other in South Carolina.
Before the drawing, there was a rush for tickets around the country.
At a mini market in the heart of Los Angeles' Chinatown, employees broke the steady stream of customers into two lines: One for Powerball ticket buyers and one for everybody else. Some people appeared to be looking for a little karma.
"We've had two winners over $10 million here over the years, so people in the neighborhood think this is the lucky store," employee Gordon Chan said as he replenished a stack of lottery tickets on a counter.
The world's largest jackpot was a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot in March 2012. If $600 million, the jackpot would currently include a $376.9 million cash option.
Clyde Barrow, a public policy professor at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, specializes in the gaming industry. He said one of the key factors behind the ticket-buying frenzy is the size of the jackpot — people are interested in the easy investment.
"Even though the odds are very low, the investment is very small," he said. "Two dollars gets you a chance."
That may be why Ed McCuen has a Powerball habit that's as regular as clockwork. The 57-year-old electrical contractor from Savannah, Ga., buys one ticket a week, regardless of the possible loot. It's a habit he didn't alter Saturday.
"You've got one shot in a gazillion or whatever," McCuen said, tucking his ticket in his pocket as he left a local convenience store. "You can't win unless you buy a ticket. But whether you buy one or 10 or 20, it's insignificant."
Seema Sharma doesn't seem to think so. The newsstand employee in Manhattan's Penn Station purchased $80 worth of tickets for herself. She also was selling tickets all morning at a steady pace, instructing buyers where to stand if they wanted machine-picked tickets or to choose their own numbers.
"I work very hard — too hard — and I want to get the money so I can finally relax," she said. "You never know."
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