DES MOINES, Iowa - Strong sales have pushed Saturday's Powerball jackpot to an estimated $325 million annuity, with a cash option of $202.9 million, the highest lump-sum amount ever in the history of the game.
These latest results show that the $2 Powerball game is performing as expected, generating the bigger jackpots that had been anticipated when the game was revamped in January. The new version of the game debuted Jan. 15, sporting several new features to give players more value.
The game's starting jackpots have doubled to $40 million and the jackpot is now easier to win. The overall odds of winning any prize in Powerball also have gotten easier, and the game's second prize for matching the first five numbers but missing the Powerball has become $1 million cash.
"Although the game change has pumped up the jackpots, we still don't think Powerball is showing all it can do," said Jim Haynes, chairman of the Powerball Game Group and director of the Nebraska Lottery. "Statistics show that even more Powerball millionaires will be created as we move forward."
Strong sales prompted lottery directors in the game to raise Saturday's Powerball jackpot to an estimated $325 million, the amount the winner(s) would receive in annuitized payments over the 30-year payout of the jackpot. But if the winner were to choose the cash option, as many do today, the lump-sum payment would be $202.9 million cash, a record amount. The largest previous lump-sum amount for a Powerball jackpot was $177.3 million from the drawing on Feb. 18, 2006.
Players in $2 Powerball still choose their first five numbers from a pool of 59, but the group of numbers in the Powerball pool has shrunk from 39 to 35, producing better overall odds of winning a prize. Along with changes at the higher prize levels, the very smallest prize you can win in Powerball also increased. Players now win $4 when they match just the Powerball.
"We increased the lowest prize from $3 to $4 so that when they won, players could buy two more tickets in the game if they wanted to do so," said Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich. "At the lowest prize level and overall, players will have more winning experiences per play."
The Power Play option is still available for an extra $1 per play. Instead of randomly multiplying prizes by two to five times, the Power Play now increases each prize level by a set amount. For example, if you've added the Power Play option to your ticket and you match the first five numbers in a drawing, the $1 million prize you would have won will be doubled to $2 million. Or, if you would have won a $10,000 prize for matching four of the regular numbers and the Powerball, the Power Play option will quadruple your prize to $40,000. A chart showing all of the Power Play prize amounts is available here: www.ialottery.com/Games/Online/powerball.asp.
Since getting its start in April 1992 with 15 states and jackpots that started at a guaranteed $2 million, Powerball has grown into one of the world's biggest and most recognizable lottery games. Today Powerball is played by 44 lotteries across the country. The biggest jackpot in the game to date was a $365 million prize split by eight co-workers at a Nebraska meat-packing plant in February 2006.
Powerball drawings continue to be held at 9:59 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.