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2 winning tickets hit record Powerball jackpot

4:17 AM, Nov 29, 2012   |    comments
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Gary Strauss, USA TODAY
Powerball officials say ticket sold in Arizona and Missouri matched all six numbers to win the record $580M million jackpot.

Now begins the wait for the winners to come forward.

It was not clear whether the winning tickets belonged to individuals or groups. Arizona lottery officials said early Thursday morning they had no information on that state's winner or winners but would announce where it was sold during a news conference later in the day. Lottery officials in Missouri did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

The drawing produced this series of winning numbers: 05, 16, 22, 23, 29, and a Powerball of 6.

When the winning numbers were drawn, the Powerball website produced only an error message, apparently overwhelmed with traffic.

A lottery official said late Wednesday that the jackpot increased to $579.9 million by the time of the drawing. Earlier in the day, the Multi-State Lottery Association boosted the jackpot from $500 million Tuesday. For Saturday's drawing, the jackpot was at just $325 million.

Chuck Strutt, the association's director, says skyrocketing sales pushed Wednesday's prize higher. There have been 16 consecutive drawings since Oct. 6 without a jackpot winner, which has fueled more than 500 million ticket purchases and exponential growth in the jackpot, second-biggest ever after March's $656 million Mega Millions award.

Strutt says hopefuls will have spent more than $1 billion wagering on the current jackpot.

Few appeared immune to lottery fever, especially late Wednesday, when the pace of sales was accelerating to more than 7 million an hour.

Even past multimillionaire winners had the bug. Vietnamese immigrant Dung Tran - among eight Nebraska ConAgra meat-packing plant workers who split a $365 million jackpot in February 2006 - was buying in. Tran walked into the same Lincoln U-Stop he bought the winning ticket six years ago, purchasing 22 tickets for Wednesday's drawing from the same store clerk.

"We joked about it," cashier Janice Mitzner says. "I told him, 'Wouldn't it be something if you won again?' "

At Imperial Liquors in Washington, D.C., the line for tickets stretched down the block when manager Surinder Singh opened the store Wednesday morning. By noon, Imperial had sold hundreds.

As they purchased tickets, Singh offered each customer free bananas or apples to celebrate a Sikh holiday commemorating the birth of Sikhism's founder, Guru Nanak Dev, perhaps a lucky omen. "It's an auspicious day," Singh said.

Singh's father called from India to remind him to buy. "I said if I win, I'll send a chartered plane,'' Surinder Singh said.

Ashley Fuller, a student at Jefferson Community and Technical College in Louisville, reminded classmates to buy tickets - and not to forget her if one hits the jackpot.

Fuller, 25, knows the chances of winning are tiny - just 1 in 175 million - but wants an opportunity. "As long as I get one, I'm OK,'' she says. "I could be in those odds."

Faustino Becerril, 48, of Clarkston, Mich., bought five tickets on the way to work. He owns a painting company and employs six. Even if he wins, he'll stay on the job. "I'd have a bigger painting company," Becerril says. "If you don't work, you don't feel good."

At New Orleans' Discount City convenience store on South Claiborne Avenue, hopefuls were asking for tickets at 4 a.m., four hours before the store's Powerball machine turns on. Owner Rami Ajsaid expects a bigger crush of customers Wednesday night.

When the Mega Millions jackpot reached $656 million in March, lines snaked out the door, says Ajsaid, who is adding a worker just to man Powerball machine.

"Tonight will be really heavy," he said. "Everyone's talking about it."

Keoka Powell, 40, bought two tickets early. The school bus driver doesn't usually play, but felt compelled by the high stakes jackpot. If she wins, she'll take her three sons - ages 10 to 20 - on a Disney cruise and travel to Paris and Japan.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance," Powell said.

At Airport News and Tobacco near New Castle, Del., rare lottery players were stepping in. "It's so absurd of a number, says UPS driver Jim Baker, 43. "People like me who never gamble say, 'Oh, I have to get a ticket.' "

Don Whitney, 77, of Carneys Point, N.J., bought five tickets.

"Half a billion dollars? Donald Trump, move over," Whitney said.

According to lottery officials, the next Powerball drawing will be Saturday, Dec. 1, with an estimated grand prize of $40,000,000.

Contributing: Donna Leinwand Leger in Washington, D.C., Rick Jervis in New Orleans; John Wisely, the Detroit Free Press; Jesse Halladay, the Louisville Courier-Journal; Mike Chalmers, the (Del.) News Journal; Associated Press

USA TODAY

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