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Powerball jackpot reaches $500 million

Rita Mostaccio, of Islip Terrace, purchases a Powerball

Rita Mostaccio, of Islip Terrace, purchases a Powerball lottery ticket from Jay Caputo at ASC News on Carleton Avenue in Islip Terrace. (Nov. 27, 2012) Credit: James Carbone

The top prize for Wednesday's Powerball drawing has reached an estimated $500 million, a $75 million increase in the pot since Monday, state lottery officials said.

That increase is a result of an uptick in ticket sales, which tend to surge before record drawings as people seek to win big.

As of Tuesday, Powerball sales in New York reached $86 million, up from $76.7 million on Monday, said New York Lottery spokeswoman Christy Calicchia. The jackpot opened at $40 million on Oct. 6, she said. Since then it has rolled over 15 times, including Saturday.

A single winner of Wednesday's jackpot could choose a lump sum, before taxes, of $327 million or annuity payments totaling $500 million over 29 years after initial payment.

Even though she joked that she never wins, Rose SantoPietro, 56, of Huntington, was out buying $10 worth of Powerball tickets Tuesday morning for a shot at the jackpot, a Powerball record.

Asked what she would do if she did win, SantoPietro said with a smile, "I would do so many things. . . . I would take care of my family," including a son in college with dreams of going to law school. The winnings would also allow her to do charitable work, said SantoPietro, who played at a 7-Eleven on Laurel Road in East Northport.

Since 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, a steady stream of customers came in to buy tickets, said 7-Eleven employee Laura Veck. She said several had promised her the same thing: If they win, " 'I'll think of you.' "

Dreaming of early retirement, Michelle Ragonese bought a cluster of tickets for her pool of teachers and school employees at the East Setauket Stop & Shop Tuesday.

"We're all excited," she said after buying $300 worth, the collected amount from 58 teachers and staff at a nearby school. "You never know."

She was happy to think about what winning might mean. "Wouldn't that be great? Even just a little something," she said with a laugh.

No one won Saturday's $325 million jackpot, when the numbers were 22-32-37-44-50, and the Powerball was 34. That was the fourth-largest Powerball jackpot.

The previous Powerball record was $365 million in 2006, split by eight workers from ConAgra Foods in Lincoln, Neb. A group of 20 employees at the Melville Costco hit it big in June 2011, winning a $201.9 million Powerball jackpot.

With Sophia Chang

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