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Mega Millions and Powerball prizes top $200 million

Aug 19, 2009, 10:45 pm

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Mega Millions / Powerball

Jackpots for the two multistate lotteries in the U.S. rose above $200 million each as players await tonight's drawing for one of the prizes.

USA Mega (www.usamega.com) said on its Web site that stronger-than-expected sales over the past three days increased the jackpot for tonight's drawing by $5 million to $250 million, or $124.8 million in cash. The odds of winning are 1 in 195 million. It's the 10th-biggest prize ever for the lottery, which is played in 30 states including Connecticut, Florida and Pennsylvania.

The jackpot for Mega Millions rose $37 million to $207 million, or $130.1 million in cash, for the Aug. 21 drawing after no winning ticket was purchased for last night's drawing, the lottery said on its Web site. The odds of hitting the jackpot are about 1 in 176 million. The game is played in 12 states including California, New Jersey and New York.

The Powerball prize may climb to $300 million or more if there are no winners in tonight's drawing because the jackpot increases in value as more tickets are sold. The lottery has had four wins of $300 million or more in its nine-year history, including a December 2002 prize that rose above the mark on the day of the drawing because of last-minute Christmas Day sales.

Size Boosts Sales

About 50 percent of Powerball ticket sales occur on drawing days, and larger jackpots can increase weekly sales as much as fivefold, said Rebecca Hargrove, president of the Tennessee Lottery and chairman of the Powerball game group.

"Once you can put a 'B' word in it, a quarter-billion, people get pretty excited," Hargrove said in a telephone interview from Nashville. "I would think if it rolled tonight we'll be approaching the $300 million mark by tomorrow morning."

The biggest Mega Millions prize, $390 million, was also the largest in North American lottery history. It was won by a Cape May County, New Jersey, couple and a Rocky Face, Georgia, truck driver in March 2007. The largest Powerball jackpot, $365 million, was won by a group of eight co-workers at a Con Agra Foods plant in Lincoln, Nebraska in February 2006.

Mega Millions is played in California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington state. Players pick six numbers from two pools -- five numbers from 1 through 56 and one from 1 through 46. Tickets cost $1 for the drawings, which are held on Tuesdays and Fridays at 11 p.m. local time in Atlanta.

Powerball Participants

Powerball is played in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Wisconsin and the Virgin Islands.

Players pick six numbers from two pools -- five numbers from 1 to 59 and one from 1 through 39. Tickets cost $1, and drawings are held every Wednesday and Saturday at 10:59 p.m. in Orlando, Florida.

The winning numbers from tonight's Powerball drawing will be published at USA Mega (www.usamega.com) within minutes of the draw time.

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