Jackpot hit in monster lottery win

AND THE WINNER IS... 10, 13, 14, 22 and 52, with a Powerball of 11.
AND THE WINNER IS... 10, 13, 14, 22 and 52, with a Powerball of 11.

One single ticket in Florida has matched all the numbers to win the highest Powerball lottery jackpot in history at an estimated US$590.5 million (NZ$710m), officials said.

The lone winner was sold at a supermarket in Zephyrhills, Florida, according to Florida Lottery executive Cindy O’Connell.

The winner was not immediately identified publicly and she did not give any indication hours after Saturday’s (NZT Sunday) drawing whether anyone had already stepped forward with the ticket.

With four out of every five possible combinations of numbers in the multistate lottery in play, someone is almost sure 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 about US$600m (NZ$720m). But Powerball’s online site said that its latest tabulation of the tickets sold put the estimated jackpot at about an estimated US$590.5m (NZ$710m).

Terry Rich, CEO of the Iowa Lottery, confirmed that the Powerball grand prize jackpot — based on the winner sold in Florida — had been reset at an estimated US$40m (NZ$48m), or about US$25.1m (NZ$30m) cash value if a lump sum were elected.

The chances of winning the prize were astronomically low: 1 in 175.2 million. That’s how many different ways you could combine the numbers. But lottery officials estimated that about 80 per cent of those possible combinations had been purchased recently.

‘‘This would be the roll to get in on,’’ Rich had said before the drawing, noting there were no guarantees and that’s ‘‘the randomness of it, and the fun of it’’.

That didn’t deter people across Powerball-playing states - 43 plus Washington, DC, and the US Virgin Islands - from lining up at gas stations and convenience stores Saturday for their chance at striking it filthy rich.

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 US$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 US$656 million Mega Millions jackpot (NZ$786m) in March 2012.

If US$600m (NZ$720m), the jackpot would currently include a US$376.9m (NZ$450m) cash option.

Clyde Barrow, a public policy professor at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, specialises in the gaming industry.

He said one of the key factors behind the ticket-buying frenzy was the size of the jackpot - people were 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 had a Powerball habit that’s as regular as clockwork. The 57-year-old electrical contractor from Savannah, Georgia, 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 US$80 (NZ$96) 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.’’