South Carolinians dreaming of winning the U.S. record $800 million jackpot are buying a week’s worth of Powerball tickets in a day, state lottery officials said.
The state usually sells about $1.2 million in Powerball tickets a week, said Paula Harper Bethea, executive director for the S.C. Education Lottery. Sales met or surpassed that weekly mark on Thursday and Friday, she said.
A third straight day of big ticket buying is expected Saturday when the next set of Powerball numbers are drawn. Sales are expected to reach a record in South Carolina.
“We’re attracting people to the game who play only when we get jackpots like that,” Bethea said.
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South Carolina has sold a pair of lucrative winning Powerball tickets in the past six years.
A ticket for the nation’s 10th largest jackpot, $399 million, was sold in Lexington County to an anonymous winner in 2013. A Columbia-area man, Solomon Jackson, won a $260 million jackpot in 2009.
This is the third large Powerball jackpot in the past 11 months — $310 million in September and $564 million in February.
But the jackpots are getting higher after Powerball organizers made it harder to win the top prize starting in October. The game is played in 44 States as well as Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Odds of winning the jackpot were raised from 1 in 175 million to 1 in 293 million.
The chances of winning any prize, on the other hand, fell to 1 in 25 from 1 in 32.
Powerball officials wanted to change the game to boost sales that have fallen with jackpot fatigue.
Powerball sales in South Carolina fell by 32 percent between mid-2013 and mid-2015 — even though the game offered three of the largest jackpots in U.S. history, according to S.C. Education Lottery reports.
“When I started working with the lottery seven years ago, people told me they played when the jackpot reached $100 million, $125 million,” Bethea said. “Now they tell me they play when it’s north of $300 million.”
The hint of a $1 billion jackpot is luring back thousands of players buying up $2 tickets for Saturday’s 10:59 p.m drawing.
“This is unchartered water for us,” Bethea said.