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Powerball jackpot soars to $1.5 billion; odds of winning are slim

A man buys a Powerball lottery ticket at

A man buys a Powerball lottery ticket at a newsstand in New York City on Jan. 12, 2016. Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Kena Betancur

The Powerball’s jackpot prize shot up to $1.5 billion for Wednesday’s draw, the highest in world lottery history. And despite the dismal odds of hitting it big, many New Yorkers think they could have a chance at it.

“My wife told me ‘don’t come home tonight unless you play Powerball,’ ” said Hal Kleinman, 83, an executive vice president for a clothing company in Manhattan, after buying a ticket in midtown.

If he wins, the couple plans to travel the world together.

“I keep having dreams that I’m winning,” said Tiana Wilson, 33, a finance manager from New Jersey. She said she would use the money to start her own business if she won.

Richard Friedman, 54, of Monroe, said he made a pact with God that he would give away 75% of the jackpot and keep just 25% for himself. However, he realized that his chances were infinitesimal.

“I have the money spent in my mind, but I know it’s not real,” he said. “I know this is just playing with my nerves.”

The odds of scoring the jackpot are about 1 in 292 million per ticket, said data scientist Ben Wellington, who teaches at the Pratt Institute. Players are 31 times more likely to be killed by a dog — and 22 times more likely to be struck by lightning.

The jackpot is the sweetest ever, but with so many people playing it is likely there will be multiple winners divvying it up, he said

He recommended players pick random numbers. Numbers that many others will likely pick, like the number 13, could mean a jackpot divided into smaller slices if it’s among the winning numbers.

A New York City winner who takes a one-time lump sum payment instead of an annuity paid over 29 years will get $930 million before taxes, according to a state gaming commission spokeswoman. After taxes are automatically withheld, the winner would be left with a net of $579.4 million.

Losers and non-participants still benefit. From Powerball ticket sales over the past 10 weeks, New York State school districts will get $66.7 million and local businesses where tickets are bought have made $11 million.

“This is an international phenomenon to be sure,” said Gardner Gurney, the director of the New York Lottery, in a statement. “Wednesday’s $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot has the world captivated, and rightly so.”

Even tourists from overseas were buying Powerball tickets, which are sold in 44 states and Washington D.C. They can also be bought in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Tricia Lares, 43, an attorney from Bermuda, purchased a Powerball ticket at a small midtown convenience store and said she would give much of the jackpot to charity before moving to an island south of Greece.

There were nearly a dozen people standing in line at the store on Monday night.

“It’s a chance,” Lares said while holding the ticket up. “The chance is always there even if it’s small. You never know.”


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