No Powerball winner? Officials watch $320M jackpot

Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Viola Mourton buys a Powerball ticket every day. But with a $320 million jackpot that could grow in the next few days, she's upping her chances Thursday and buying several at her local convenience store.

"It's just a chance to win big money," said the 51-year-old secretary from Ottumwa, Iowa. "I'll probably buy a couple today because it's so high. But it only takes one to win."

That could be the game plan for others around the country. No Powerball winner yet? No problem. That just means a bigger jackpot for the rest of us.

Lottery officials said no ticket matched all the numbers in Wednesday night's Powerball drawing. Three tickets won the $1 Million Match 5 prize. But it means the current $320 million jackpot could swell before the next drawing on Saturday.

The jackpot is the sixth highest in history, but it could grow depending on sales at the end of each day, said Mary Neubauer, spokeswoman for the Iowa Lottery, one of the founding Powerball states.

"I think it has reached the water cooler level," she said. "It just starts to buzz."

No one has won the Powerball jackpot since early February, when Dave Honeywell in Virginia bought the winning ticket for the $217 million jackpot.

The largest Powerball jackpot came in at $587.5 million in November. The winning numbers were picked on two different tickets — one by a couple in Missouri and the other by an Arizona man — and the jackpot was split.

Nebraska still holds the record for the largest Powerball jackpot won on a single ticket — $365 million. That jackpot was won by eight workers at a Lincoln, Neb., meatpacking plant in February 2006.

"We've seen a little more traffic than we usually do. Saturday will be the busy day," said Abbey Locatis, a customer service clerk at a central Omaha grocery store that sells more Powerball tickets than any other retailer in the state.

Saturdays and Wednesdays get a bit harried when the jackpot exceeds $300 million, she said.

How does the store handle the crush of ticket buyers?

"We just keep printing them," Locatis said. "We usually have three people behind the counter, so we're able to keep up."

The search is on for the next lucky winner or winners. Neubauer said there's universal appeal to the possibility of winning the top prize.

"Everybody starts to tune in when the lottery gets to this level," she said. "It gives you a mental break from the day — something else to think about than day-to-day life activities."

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Associated Press Writer Margery Beck in Omaha, Neb., contributed to this report.

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Follow Barbara Rodriguez at http://twitter.com/bcrodriguez

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