LOS ANGELES — An eye-popping and unprecedented Powerball jackpot whose rise to $1.6 billion became a national fascination will be split three ways.
The winners’ identities remain a mystery, but they bought their tickets in Florida, Tennessee and a Los Angeles suburb where even lottery losers were celebrating Thursday that such heady riches were won in their modest city.
The winners of the world-record jackpot overcame odds of 1 in 292.2 million to land on the numbers drawn Wednesday night, 4-8-19-27-34 and Powerball 10. They can take the winnings in annual payments spread over decades or a smaller amount in a lump sum.
The California ticket was sold at a 7-Eleven in Chino Hills, California, lottery spokesman Alex Traverso told The Associated Press. The winning ticket in Tennessee was sold in Munford, north of Memphis, according to a news release from lottery officials in that state.
The California store and its surrounding strip mall immediately became a popular gathering spot in the usually quiet suburb of 75,000 people. Hundreds of people, from news crews to gawkers, crowded the store and spilled into its parking lot.
They cheered and mugged for TV cameras as if it were New Year’s Eve or a sporting event. Many chanted, “Chino Hills! Chino Hills!” in celebration of the city.
“It’s history. We’re all so excited for our city,” Rita Talwar, 52, who has lived in Chino Hills for 30 years, told the local newspaper, the San Bernardino Sun.
Some took selfies with the store clerk on duty, who became an instant celebrity and may well have been the man who sold the ticket after being on duty for much of the run-up to Wednesday night’s drawing.
“I’m very proud that the ticket was sold here,” the clerk, M. Faroqui, told the Sun. “I’m very happy. This is very exciting.”
The 7-Eleven will get a $1 million bonus for selling the winning ticket, Traverso said.
No details were immediately available about the Florida winner.
The estimated jackpot amounts had risen steadily since Nov. 4, when it was reset at $40 million. Texas Lottery executive director Gary Grief has said this Powerball offered “absolutely” the world’s biggest jackpot.
Powerball tickets are sold in 44 states, as well as the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
But residents in the six states that don’t participate found ways to get their hands on tickets. Some of the biggest Powerball sales have come from cities bordering states that don’t sell the tickets, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association. The association oversees the Powerball Lottery, but management rotates annually among member states.
WINNER: GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS
The biggest Powerball winner is actually state government in the jurisdictions that participate. That’s 44 states as well as the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Each jurisdiction spends the money raised through the lottery differently, with the rules determined by state Legislatures. In some states, the money goes directly to education or college scholarships. Elsewhere, it might fund transportation. Some states send it to their general fund, where lawmakers decide how to use it.
The money raised by a state depends on ticket sales, with larger-population states usually generating more money.
In fiscal year 2015, for example, Powerball and other lottery games generated $74.5 million for Iowa’s general fund. In California, the nation’s most populous state, the games raised about $1.3 billion for education in the 2014 fiscal year.
WINNER: CONVENIENCE STORE OWNERS
Owners of convenience stores and other ticket-selling locations earn a small percentage of each sale, but more important, people often buy something extra when they stop for Powerball tickets.
The Kum & Go chain, which has 430 gas stations and convenience stores in 11 mostly Midwestern states, has seen a significant increase in sales from the Powerball rush, though spokeswoman Kristie Bell declined to give specific figures.
At the tiny Marketplace shop in downtown Des Moines, owner Anastasia Walsh said her overall sales have been up about 10 per cent in recent weeks because of all the Powerball sales.
“I couldn’t do anything else. I couldn’t even eat,” Walsh said. “I couldn’t even sit down because I’m constantly standing up. I mean there’s people lined up. It’s crazy.”
WINNER: THE WINNERS OF SMALLER PRIZES
Lottery officials often note that while the jackpot gets all the attention, far more players get a nice consolation prize of $1 million for matching the five white balls but missing the Powerball. And if they pay an extra dollar when they buy their ticket, that prize can double to $2 million.
In last Saturday’s drawing, 25 people matched the five numbers and won $1 million, and three players paid the extra buck and won $2 million. Players also receive much smaller prizes for matching as few as three numbers or just the Powerball.
WINNER: THE ACTUAL WINNNERS
As more people play Powerball, the chances for a winner improve, simply because more of the 292.2 million possible number combinations are covered.
LOSER: PROBLEM GAMBLERS
In the past week, calls to the Washington-based National Council on Problem Gambling’s help line have soared, largely because of interest in the Powerball jackpot, Executive Director Keith Whyte said.
The council suddenly has so much attention that its website crashed earlier in the week from all the extra traffic.
Whyte said the surge in interest in Powerball is especially difficult on people who have managed to stop gambling but now find their friends and co-workers talking about the big prize.
“It does glamourize it,” he said. “It seems like everyone is doing it and if not, what’s wrong with you?”
Pity those who study statistics and other forms of math, as so many people across the country dream of a prize against all odds.
The odds of 1 in 292.2 million are even worse than the 1 in 175 million odds that were in place until last fall, when the Powerball system was changed to build bigger jackpots.
“The odds are so large,” said Scott A. Norris, an assistant professor of mathematics at Southern Methodist University, ‘that people don’t have any sense of what they mean.”
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