By Ben Klayman
ANN ARBOR, Mich (Reuters) - Falsetta's Market on Washtenaw Avenue in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has seen new ticket buyers coming out of the woodworks since the Powerball lottery soared to an all-time record high for North America, reaching $700 million on Thursday afternoon.
"Yesterday was huge," manager Matt Devereux said of the run-up to Wednesday night's drawing, when no one won the jackpot which then stood at $500 million.
"A lot of people who don't normally play, and who very, very rarely play, were buying."
The $700 million jackpot for Powerball, played in 44 states, Washington, and two U.S. territories, is worth $428.4 million if a winner chooses an immediate cash payout instead of annual payments over 29 years, the Multi-State Lottery Association said on its website. The drawing will be held on Saturday.
Devereux said that type of payout was pulling in more elderly buyers than he normally sees, and the amount being spent on tickets was as much as five times higher than usual, with most people spending $10 or $20.
That kind of influx of money was being reported in other states as well.
Between $5 million and $10 million per hour in Powerball ticket sales were expected in California in the hours leading up to Saturday’s drawing, said Alex Traverso, spokesman for California Lottery.
“People are going to be excited and want to be a part of it,” he said. “The momentum is just going to build.”
On Wednesday, there were $20 million in Powerball ticket sales in California, Traverso said.
One statistician warned ticket buyers not to get too excited, comparing the odds of winning, one in 292 million, to counting the drops of water in the ocean, or grains of sand in the world.
"We can't imagine those things. It's near impossible," said Jeffrey Miecznikowski, associate professor of biostatistics at the University at Buffalo.
The last Powerball jackpot winner was in November, when a ticket holder from Tennessee claimed $144.1 million. However, that was far smaller than last year's biggest jackpots of $564.1 million in February and $310.5 million in September.
The previous record North American lottery jackpot payout was in March 2012, when $656 million was won in a Mega Millions draw.
(Additional reporting by Victoria Cavaliere and Suzannah Gonzales; editing by Nick Macfie and David Gregorio)