Lottery fever is gripping people throughout Italy, as the possibility of winning the jackpot worth 63 million euros ($71.4 million) looms nearer.
After the jackpot eluded Italians again on Wednesday, the next chance to correctly pick the winning six numbers will come on Saturday.
Wednesday night's draw of the hugely popular numbers-picking game offered a jackpot of 58.5 million euros ($66.6 million), but the top prize eluded players for the 43rd straight time.
The prize up for grabs Wednesday night in "SuperEnalotto" would have been the highest ever awarded by a European lottery, according to Tiziana Ricca, a spokeswoman for the government contractor SISAL, which runs several of the country's games.
Every Wednesday and Saturday a number is drawn from a wheel in six of Italy's largest cities in a nail-biting show televised by Italy's state-run broadcaster, RAI. The jackpot is awarded to whoever guesses all six numbers correctly. If more than one person wins, the winnings are divided.
The prize has now been rolled over 43 times without a winner, drawing the attention of novice or occasional players as well as foreigners.
"When the jackpot is this high you even get tourists and foreigners trying their luck," said Maria Teresa Millozzi, owner of a bar near the Pantheon in central Rome where lottery tickets are sold.
The AGI news agency said people from neighboring Slovenia and Austria crossed the border to reach Tarvisio in northern Italy and pick their numbers.
Long lines formed at outlets in the capital. In one outlet in central Piazza Venezia, owners handed one ticket after the other to a seemingly endless flow of people.
"We play rarely, but with such a high jackpot we got organized," said the 42-year-old Gianni Meola, who bets with a group of six colleagues.
"If we win we run away together. If not, then it is just a way to reinforce our friendship," he said, waiting in line.
The lottery became an instant hit when it was introduced in 1997 by the Italian state. However, such a huge jackpot has drawn concern as well.
Alfredo Biondi, a conservative lawmaker from Premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, suggested that whoever wins the prize get it in the form of annual installments.
"That avoids the risk of upsetting your life," he said.