Just when it seemed as if the Powerball game had broken all records, yet another milestone has been set with the current jackpot of $220 million: It's the first time two consecutive jackpots have surpassed $200 million.
The staggering $220 million jackpot for tomorrow night's drawing follows the last record-setter of $365 million, won in February by a group of eight third-shift workers at a meat-packing plant in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The last time two big jackpots paired up was in 2003, when consecutive jackpots over $100 million were won. The first jackpot won was on August 30, 2003 by a player in New Hampshire for a $135 million jackpot. That was followed by a $191 million jackpot won on October 25, 2003 and split by tickets sold in Indiana and Minnesota.
In the past year, the Powerball jackpot has reached $200 million or more ten times. According to the Chairman of the Powerball Group and the Director of the West Virginia Lottery, John Musgrave, the high jackpots have been mostly due to the luck of the draw.
"The Powerball game was changed in August of 2005 and the new design predicted that the jackpot would be above $200 million four or five times per year," said Musgrave. "Lotto games runs on averages and Powerball is having an extraordinary year."
Jackpots are also climbing faster than ever before.
"It normally takes 12 or more draws to reach a jackpot of $100 million, but the current run went past $100 million in just nine draws," said Musgrave.
The current string of drawings has also shaved a week (two draws) off the race to $200 million — passing that number in 15 draws.
"The game change really caught on," said Musgrave, who is also the Acting Cabinet Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Revenue. "We doubled some low-tier prizes; we were able to create a new Match 5 Bonus prize level twice and we also ran the 10X promotion that let winners multiply their prizes ten times."
Last October, the Powerball game was changed to increase the odds of hitting the jackpot, but the game also doubled the prizes for matching five numbers to $200,000 and for matching four numbers to $10,000. In addition, a new prize level, called the Match 5 Bonus prize, went into effect, paying a special cash prize pool of $19.6 million to qualifying winners on February 16, 2006 and a larger cash pool of $32 million shared by 49 players last October. The PowerPlay 10X promotion allowed winners who bought the PowerPlay option the chance to multiply their prizes by ten times during all of last month.
Sales in the Powerball game passed the previous year's sales of nearly $2 billion ($1,974,015,851) after just eight months of the current fiscal year — which began July 1, 2005.
"Higher sales means more money for the benefits designated by each state for lottery profits," said Musgrave.
Lawmakers in each lottery jurisdiction determine how it will spend lottery profits. Common benefit programs are to support education, environment, economic development, and programs to aid senior citizens.
Since the game's first drawing on April 22, 1992, Powerball has given away an estimated $6.5 billion dollars in jackpot winnings to over 200 instant millionaires. The game also has the distinction of awarding over half of the world's 20 highest lottery jackpots.