Powerball frenzy sweeps U.S. as jackpot reaches almost $1.3 billion Cdn

With Powerball sales breaking records across the United States, the odds are growing that someone will win the $900 million jackpot when it is drawn Saturday. That totals more than $1.3 billion in Canadian dollars.

Record lotto prize drawn Saturday evening — winning numbers are 32-16-19-57-34

People feeling lucky buy lottery tickets for the Powerball jackpot, the largest in North American history 0:37

With Powerball sales breaking records across the United States, the odds are growing that someone will win the $900 million jackpot drawn Saturday. That totals almost $1.3 billion in Canadian dollars.

And Canadians are among those looking to cash in on the massive prize. The winning numbers for the record jackpot — announced Saturday night by the Multi-State Lottery Association — are 32-16-19-57-34 and Powerball No. 13.

If no one matches all the numbers, the next drawing is expected to soar to an estimated $1.3 billion US, or more than $1.8 billion Cdn. The jackpot is already the largest ever payout in North American history. The odds to win are one in 292.2 million. 

Lottery officials say a winner would have the option of being paid $1.3 billion Cdn through annual payments over 29 years or a one-time lump sum of around $790 million Cdn.

Officials with the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs the Powerball game, estimate about 75 per cent of the possible number combinations will be bought for Saturday night's drawing. The game is available to be played in most American states — a single ticket costs $2 US.

A corner store displays a Powerball lottery sign next to its cash register and checkout in Encinitas, California. The jackpot is the largest ever payout in North American history. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

That percentage could rise if the jackpot estimate increases before the drawing. But even lottery officials say they don't know what to expect.

"You can throw out the logic. You can throw out the statistics," Gary Grief, executive director of the Texas Lottery, said Friday. "We've never seen jackpots like this. It's a new experience for all of us."

The odds of winning the jackpot are "astronomically small," said Scott Norris, an assistant professor of mathematics at Southern Methodist University.

Since Nov. 4, the Powerball jackpot has grown from its $40 million US starting point as no one has won the jackpot.

Warning about online ticket sales

Meanwhile, Canadians looking to cash in on the massive U.S. prize have been crossing the border to buy tickets since anyone who legally purchases a ticket is eligible to play.

One website says it's trying to make that process easier — but it still may be a case of buyer be warned.

TheLotter.com offers to purchase tickets in the U.S. on behalf of Canadians, saying users of the site will receive a scanned copy of their ticket in a private online account before the draw takes place.

According to a statement released by the company earlier this week, "thousands" of Canadians have used the service. The simplest payment option on theLotter.com for Powerball is $21 Cdn for three plays — about $12.50 more than buying three tickets in person.

"TheLotter provides a global lottery service in that we operate as couriers on your behalf. We purchase your lottery tickets for you and handle everything from start to finish," the website reads. "Aside from operating as a courier on your behalf, theLotter holds no legal claim to your tickets or your wins."

TheLotter.com also notes any winner would "generally need" to collect their prize in person from the official local lottery, as per most lotteries' policies.

"TheLotter will fly you to the country where the draw took place. There, our local office representative will hand you your winning ticket and provide you with a detailed explanation on how to collect your win from the official lottery's office."

However, the Powerball website cautions against using online services that claim to purchase the tickets on behalf of residents outside of the U.S.

"There are no regulations of websites that claim to sell tickets or to sell you a 'service' to buy and hold tickets for you," it reads. 

Last month, a man living in Iraq won and collected $6.4 million US in an Oregon lottery while using theLotter.com. 

According to an article from the New York Times, Jack Roberts, director of Oregon Lottery, said an investigation had been launched and that he had his doubts whether international lottery sales are legal. But the winner had done nothing wrong, he said, and a cheque was cut.

Canadians should also bear in mind that winners don't take home the whole chunk.

All winners must pay U.S. federal income taxes. The U.S. government requires 25 per cent to be withheld off the top if the winner supplies a U.S. Social Security or tax ID number. If a winner doesn't have such a number, the tax withholding rate is 28 per cent.

With files from CBC News


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