Lottery fever: U.S. Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots top $1 billion

Lottery fever: U.S. Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots top $1 billion

By Chris Kenning

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. lottery players on Friday and Saturday night will get two shots at record Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots that together topped $1 billion after going months without a winner.

At stake in Friday's 11 p.m. EST (0400 GMT Saturday) Mega Millions drawing is a $450 million prize, the fourth-largest in its history with a $281 million payout if the winner selects a lump-sum payment.

Saturday's 10:59 p.m. EST Powerball drawing is worth $570 million, with a $358.5 million lump-sum payment that is the fifth-largest in its history, according to organizers.

Together they constituted the third-largest combined total.

Long odds have not stopped "lottery fever" from spreading, with people lining up at retailers to buy the $2 tickets, said Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores, whose members sell about 60 percent of the nation's lottery tickets.

"There's definitely more traffic," Lenard said.

Americans spent $80.5 billion on lottery games last year, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

Powerball tickets are sold in 44 states, and Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Mega Millions tickets are offered in the same locations excluding Puerto Rico.

The largest Powerball jackpot was a $1.6 billion payout split among winners in California, Florida and Tennessee in January 2016, the association said. The largest Mega Millions jackpot of $656 million was won in 2012.

No one has hit either jackpot since October, allowing the totals to balloon. On Wednesday, no one won the Powerball jackpot worth an estimated $460 million. A day earlier, no one matched all six numbers in Mega Millions drawing, lottery officials said. [nL1N1OY1QB]

The estimated totals are before taxes are assessed.

The odds of a single ticket hitting all six numbers in the Powerball are 292 million to 1, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association. The odds of picking the right six numbers for the Mega Millions jackpot are 303 million to 1, the game said.

"When the jackpots reach these levels, everyone starts to daydream about what they would do if they won," Gordon Medenica, Mega Millions lead director, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Chris Kenning in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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