Powerball jackpot jumps to $500m; Mass. residents flock to play

The jackpot for the Powerball game jumped from $425 million to $500 million today, pushed up by strong ticket sales, as people flocked to buy tickets in Massachusetts and across the nation.

In Massachusetts, sales were well on their way to breaking Monday’s $2 million mark. Shortly after noon, the Massachusetts Lottery had already sold $997,000 in tickets, according to lottery officials, who expected spikes during the lunch and evening commute hours.

Sales are expected to be “beyond belief” Wednesday, leading up to the drawing Wednesday night, said a Lottery spokeswoman.

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The $500 million jackpot is the largest in the game’s 20-year history, the lottery said in a statement. The winner could elect to receive the money in a one-time lump sum of $327 million before taxes. The odds of winning are approximately 176 million to 1, Lottery officials say.

As the record sum gets more publicity, more people tend to jump on the bandwagon, said Barbara Bickart, who teaches consumer behavior at Boston University.

“People visualize this exciting big outcome, it’s more salient to them,” Bickart said. “My sense is that there’s a large group of people that don’t normally buy tickets. When they see the jackpot that big, they say, ‘This is one I don’t want to miss out on.’”

At Lanzilli’s convenience store in East Boston, manager Vijay Patel said he expected to sell $25,000 in Powerball tickets today, up from $20,000 a day. Patel said the store, which is among the top sellers in the state, gets business from people using nearby Logan International Airport.

Retired Boston public schools teacher Jane Manning stopped by to buy tickets. “This was an opportunity to dream,” she said, “and the price of one ticket for me and my mom was worth the $4 for the possibility to dream.”

Jacqueline Babin said she would open up her own cupcake business if she won the jackpot. “Maybe I’ll have luck,” she said.

The drawing comes eight months after three ticket buyers split a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot to set a world lottery record. The Powerball jackpot would be the second highest.

If you win, The Associated Press reports, you’ll probably have to share — not just with family, friends and the tax man, but with people who bought duplicate tickets.