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Powerball jackpot: ‘For $1.3 billion? Everybody will play’

A sign at the Mega Mart in Amityville

A sign at the Mega Mart in Amityville displays the Powerball jackpot of $1.3 billion on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, as a ticket is sold in the shop. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

With no lucky winner of Saturday night’s record $950 million Powerball drawing, the payout for the next drawing Wednesday is headed to a staggering $1.3 billion, state lottery officials said.

Digital lotto signs in Long Island store windows maxed out at $999 million, unequipped to break past the billion-dollar mark. Store owners and cashiers could sense lotto fever building ahead of the next drawing.

“For $1.3 billion? Everybody will play,” Farmingdale 7-Eleven worker Achinta Dutta, 42, of Bay Shore said. There were long lines on Saturday night at the store and he expected them to grow as Wednesday’s drawing nears.

The eye-popping number for Wednesday has drawn some newcomers to the game.

Christine Rodney, 32, of Farmingdale said she doesn’t usually play Powerball, but she bought tickets two days ago and again Sunday night. “You got to be in it to win it, I guess,” said Rodney, an art teacher at a private school.

Dutta himself buys tickets and would like to put some money toward his family and some to his Hindu temple.

Allen Michaels, 64, bought $10 worth of tickets. He had no plans on how he’d spend winnings. “With my luck I’ll go to collect it and have a heart attack,” he said.

No one matched all six numbers Saturday night, leading to the astronomical prize. And that is all but certain to grow before the next drawing, according to lottery officials.

But in Smithtown, one of three second-place, million-dollar tickets in New York was sold at Mr. Tobacco on Singer Lane south of Main Street. The winner’s identity was unknown Sunday.

The other two second-place tickets were sold at Chef Hong Inc. in Queens and Stewart’s Shops in upstate Valatie. In all, 25 second-place tickets were sold.

“We don’t know who it was or when it was purchased,” said Dan Walsh, who works at the Mr. Tobacco in Smithtown. “No one has come in yet” to claim their winnings.

The $1.3 billion prize would be the world’s richest grand prize that could go to a single ticket, Texas Lottery executive director Gary Grief said. Texas and New York are among the 44 states, plus Washington, D.C., and two U.S. territories, that participate in the Multi-State Lottery Association that runs Powerball.

The odds to win are one in 292.2 million. Seventy-five percent of all the possible combinations were purchased before Saturday’s drawing, Grief said, and he expects that enough tickets will be sold to cover about 80 percent by Wednesday. About 95 percent of Powerball tickets have computer-generated numbers.

“I’ve been in the industry over 20 years, and I’ve seen jackpots hit when we hardly have any of the potential numbers covered — like 5 percent of the possible combinations covered. And I’ve seen other jackpots when we’ve had 95 percent of the combinations covered and it rolls,” Grief said.

The jackpot has ballooned since its Nov. 4 starting point of $40 million.

It also has lured an unprecedented frenzy of purchases. Between Jan. 6 and Saturday’s drawings, more than $900 million in Powerball tickets were sold.

Officials expect similar sales before the next drawing, but Grief said it’s hard to predict how excitement about the record jackpot will boost sales.

“It’s exponentially greater than any sales that any of the states involved have ever seen,” he said.

With Lisa Irizarry and The Associated Press

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