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US hit with lottery fever ahead of $1.5 billion jackpot draw

People in the US have been rushing to buy tickets for a chance at the record-breaking $1.5 billion jackpot ahead of the latest Powerball drawing. The lottery is currently the largest in the world.

Lottery regulars and non-regulars alike flocked to buy last-minute tickets ahead of Wednesday night's Powerball lottery drawing. Record ticket sales drove up the hype as well as the world-record jackpot, which is currently set at $1.5 billion (1.38 billion euros).

"Sales are doing exponentially more than we've ever done before," Gary Grief, chair of the Powerball game group, told news agency AFP on Tuesday. "I'm hearing anecdotally and through news outlets, millions of people who have never played Powerball before are indeed purchasing a ticket."

Forty-four out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia participate in the Powerball lottery, with lottery executives saying that people have been pouring across the state and even country lines for a shot at the jackpot.

"You do not have to be a citizen of the US - people are coming from Mexico and Canada to purchase tickets," Grief said, cautioning that those who play should do so responsibly. "This is not a game to put your life savings on, your retirement on. A big part of the fun is putting down your $2 and then dreaming."

Patrons line up to buy Powerball lottery tickets outside the Primm Valley Casino Resorts Lotto Store just inside the California border

People have been flocking across international and state lines in hopes of snagging a winning ticket

The drawing is set to take place 10:59 pm on Wednesday (03:59 GMT Thursday). Based on the massive ticket sales, the Multi-State Lottery Association - which runs Powerball - says there is an 85 percent chance that a winner will be drawn on Wednesday night.

Lottery hopefuls have a one in 292 million chance of taking home the prize, but should the odds be in their favor, the lucky winner can choose to receive the full amount in installments over 29 years, or to take a one-time payment of $929.9 million (857.1 million euros).

Of course, the winner would also be required to pay substantial taxes on the prize, but ticket-buyers only have their eye on the prize.

"Non-stop, everyone's talking about it," Nick Friedberg, a carpenter and father of two, told AFP, running through a list of things he would like to buy. "Everything and anything I wanted!"

To win the money, a ticket holder has to match all numbers on six balls selected. There are five white ones from a drum which contains 69 balls, and a red one pulled from a drum with 26.

Should no winner be selected during Wednesday's draw, the jackpot will rise to a staggering $2 billion with a lump sum payout of $1.24 billion - to be drawn on Saturday.

rs/jil (AP, AFP, dpa)

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