$704m jackpot won in United States

Last updated 20:17 29/11/2012

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A record $704 million lottery jackpot has been won in the United States, officials say.

Officials confirmed that two winning Powerball lottery tickets were sold: One in the state of Arizona and one in the state of Missouri. An additional 8,924,123 players won smaller prizes.

The drawing on Wednesday (Thursday NZT) followed 16 consecutive drawings that produced no top winner, boosting the Powerball to become the second-largest potential lottery payout in US history.

A lottery official earlier said that the jackpot increased to US$579.9 million (NZ$704 million) by the time of the drawing, making the cash option US$379.8 million (NZ$461.1 million).

The numbers drawn were: 5, 16, 22, 23, 29 and Powerball of 6.

Tickets were selling at an average of 130,000 a minute across the United States in the hours before the drawing, said Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs the Powerball game. That equates to players buying 7.8 million tickets an hour, spending US$15.6 million ($NZ18.9 million) an hour for a chance at the huge jackpot.

The huge sales volume, which was about six times the rate of the week before, prompted game officials to boost the jackpot twice in two days, closing ground on the US$656 million (NZ$797 million) Mega Millions prize of March, the largest lottery jackpot in history.

"Sales have been so fast and so strong it's difficult to keep up with the estimates," said Mary Neubauer, spokeswoman for the Iowa Lottery, one of the founding Powerball states.

It took nine weeks for the Mega Millions jackpot to get that high, before three winners - from Kansas, Illinois and Maryland - hit the right numbers, each collecting US$218.6 million (NZ$265.4 million) for their share of the split. 

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