UPDATED: 11/28/2012 – 11:30 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Powerball fever has been sweeping the nation, as the record jackpot climbed to $550 million on Wednesday.
WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding reports, eight months after ticketholders split a record $656 million Mega Millions jackpot, Powerball’s $550 million prize for Wednesday’s drawing would be the second largest lottery jackpot in history, and the largest ever for Powerball.
Illinois Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones said, with long lines already forming at many locations selling Powerball tickets, the jackpot could go even higher before Wednesday night’s drawing.
“Forty-four states pool their populations for Powerball and for Mega Millions; so if demand is high, and lots of people buy tickets, there’s a chance that it could go significantly higher,” he said.
As the jackpot currently stands, a single winner opting for a cash payout would get $360.2 million before taxes.
“If you get a good tax attorney, we will give you actually a check, after withholding taxes, for $229 million, which would be the single largest prize ever awarded to anybody in the state of Illinois, if you’re the only winner,” Jones said on Tuesday.
Since the jackpot went up on Wednesday, that number now would be about $252 million.
If you’re planning to play, Jones said play early, “because there’s no sense in waiting around until late Wednesday afternoon, or early evening, when the lines will be long, as people try to try their luck against 175 million-to-one odds.”
He said, if the jackpot rolls over again Wednesday night, there’s no telling how high the next jackpot would be.