published Sunday, May 19th, 2013

$590 million-plus Powerball: 1 winning ticket sold in Florida

A customer, right, waits for his Powerball lottery ticket at a convenience store in Chicago on Saturday, May 18, 2013. A little more than a year after three tickets split a world-record lottery prize, the jackpot for Saturday's Powerball drawing was nearing historic territory. Should nobody pick the correct six numbers, the prize money will roll over to next week's drawing and almost certainly eclipse the $656 million doled out to winners in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland in the Mega Millions game in March 2012.
A customer, right, waits for his Powerball lottery ticket at a convenience store in Chicago on Saturday, May 18, 2013. A little more than a year after three tickets split a world-record lottery prize, the jackpot for Saturday's Powerball drawing was nearing historic territory. Should nobody pick the correct six numbers, the prize money will roll over to next week's drawing and almost certainly eclipse the $656 million doled out to winners in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland in the Mega Millions game in March 2012.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

DES MOINES, Iowa — It’s all about the odds, and one single ticket in Florida has beaten them all by matching all the numbers to win the highest Powerball jackpot in history at an estimated $590.5 million, lottery officials said early Sunday.

The lone winner was sold at a Publix supermarket location 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.

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

“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.”

With four out of every five possible combinations of Powerball numbers 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 around $600 million. But Powerball’s online site said early Sunday that its latest tabulation of the tickets sold put the estimated jackpot at about an estimated $590.5 million.

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 $40 million, or about $25.1 million 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 can combine the numbers when you play. But lottery officials estimated that about 80 percent 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, 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.

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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