REUTERS - Millions of Americans anxiously awaited Saturday night’s drawing in the multi-state Powerball lottery to see if anyone will take the record-high jackpot of $900 million.
The jackpot for Powerball, played in 44 states, Washington, and two U.S. territories, is worth $558 million if a winner chooses an immediate cash payout instead of annual payments over 29 years, California lottery officials said in a statement.
The prize ranks as the largest jackpot for any lottery in North American history.
In New York state, cash registers were ringing up Saturday morning sales of Powerball tickets at a pace of $1.7 million an hour, officials there said.
All the excitement by ticket buyers came despite what some statisticians call mind-boggling odds for the Powerball game - one in 292 million.
Jeffrey Miecznikowski, associate professor of biostatistics at the University at Buffalo, said in an email an American is roughly 25 times more likely to become the next president of the United States than to win at Powerball.
Or to put it another way, the odds are equivalent to flipping a coin 28 times and getting heads every time, he said.
“It doesn’t sound so bad ... but you would be at it for an eternity,” Miecznikowski said.
In the previous drawing on Wednesday night, the jackpot stood at $500 million and nobody won, setting the stage for this latest drawing just before 11 p.m. ET on Saturday.
The last Powerball jackpot winner was in November, when a ticket holder from Tennessee claimed $144.1 million. But that was far smaller than last year’s biggest jackpots of $564.1 million in February and $310.5 million in September.
The previous record North American lottery jackpot payout was in March 2012, when $656 million was won in a Mega Millions draw.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli