Press Room

A Huge 2012 Holiday Present: Powerball® Jackpot Hits Game-Record $425 Million

Wednesday's Giant Jackpot Follows Huge Mega Millions Run From Earlier This Year

DES MOINES, Iowa - The jackpot for Wednesday's Powerball drawing has entered historic territory, and players in Iowa and across the country are definitely feeling the excitement. Strong sales have pushed the jackpot to an estimated $425 million annuity ($278.3 million cash) for Wednesday's drawing. That's the largest prize ever offered in the Powerball game, and follows a monster Mega Millions run from earlier this year. The Mega Millions jackpot hit $656 million before it was won on March 30, with that big prize split between three tickets in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland.

The Powerball jackpot was last won in the drawing on Oct. 3, so it has been growing for nearly two months. Strong sales across the country are the reason the prize is taking big jumps now - Wednesday's jackpot will have grown nearly $100 million from Saturday's $327 million prize.

The previous jackpot record in Powerball was a $365 million prize won in February 2006 by eight co-workers at a Nebraska meatpacking plant.

Putting The Numbers In Perspective

That $425 million prize is definitely a lot of money. Here's some perspective on that number:

  • If you wanted to take a get-away with several hundred of your closest friends, you could do so in style as the Powerball jackpot winner! The Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger jet airliner with seating for up to 853 passengers, sells for about $389.9 million. As the Powerball jackpot winner, you could buy your very own jumbo jetliner and have money left over.
  • The combined population of the United States and Canada totals about 346 million. As the Powerball jackpot winner, you could give $1 to every person in both countries and still have money to spare.
  • And bringing it home to Iowa, the average value per acre of Iowa farmland was $6,708, according to the 2011 Farmland Value Survey by Iowa State University. As the Powerball jackpot winner, you could buy a whopping 63,357 acres of Iowa farmland, but that would still be less than 1 percent of the 30.8 million acres in farmland in our state in 2011.

How Do I Play?

The huge jackpot is attracting a lot of first-time players. Here’s how to play, if you're just getting in: Powerball players choose five numbers from a pool of 59 numbers and another number - the Powerball - from a separate pool of 35. Plays cost $2 and you can choose your own numbers or let the terminal generate a play for you by asking for an easy pick.

Players who purchase the Power Play option for an additional $1 per play can increase their winnings (except for the jackpot) by up to four times the amount.

Drawings are held at 9:59 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Does One Person Really Need All That Money?

When the jackpot really gets up there like it is now, we at the lottery start to hear from folks who say that one person doesn't need all that money. They suggest that when it gets this high, the jackpot should be split into smaller chunks that could be won by multiple people. But the fact is that people vote with their pocketbooks on this issue, and sales follow the jackpot up. The bigger the jackpot gets, the higher sales go. So it seems that a whole lot of people do want all that money to themselves! (But don't forget it is possible for more than one ticket to win the jackpot, in which case, it will be split.)

A Few Words About Office Pools

As the work week resumes Monday following the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a lot of folks may be thinking about forming office pools or buying tickets with friends, family and neighbors. It's a fun thing to do, and hey, you don't want to be the only person still at work Thursday when everyone else has won, right? The Iowa Lottery offers these reminders to keep your pool play fun and hassle free:

  • Know the rules of your pool and put them in writing. Group play details should be discussed, written and distributed to all members as the group's official rules. Some issues you may want to cover include: If a regular playing member is not present on lottery collection day will they be included or excluded? What if a regular player has someone else put in money towards their game share, do both players receive an equal share? Can players come in and out of the group? When the rules are in writing, there is no question about how to split the funds.
  • Provide everyone in your pool with copies of the group's tickets before the drawing. This should include the identifying numbers on the back of the tickets. You may also want to tell people the name and address of the retail location where the tickets were purchased and the approximate time of the purchase.
  • If the person buying the tickets for your pool also wants to buy tickets on their own, the two purchases should be kept separate. You may even want to consider buying the two sets of tickets at different stores so it is clear which tickets are for the group and which are for you.
  • Put together a list of the names and telephone numbers of everyone in your pool. In particular, you should have that information for the people who are in charge of buying the tickets and the person who will hold the tickets.
  • And finally, remember that the Iowa Lottery has added a "Play 'Em All" option in Powerball, Mega Millions and Hot Lotto®. The Play 'Em All option in Powerball gets you 35 plays for $70, one for each of the 35 numbers available in the Powerball pool for a drawing. You'll be guaranteed to match the Powerball at least once.

Please Play Responsibly

Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich predicts high sales in Iowa this week and reminds everyone to play responsibly. "As you've probably heard us say before, 'Remember to play with your head not over your head,'" Rich said. "The fun of our games is that you can do a lot of dreaming for just a few dollars."

About the Jackpot

The Powerball jackpot starts at a guaranteed $40 million and grows from there until it's won. Jackpot winners in the game can choose to receive their prize as a one-time, lump-sum payment or in 30 annuitized payments over 30 years, with the annual payment increasing over time to accommodate for inflation. The cash option is a one-time, lump-sum payment equal to the cash in the Powerball jackpot prize pool from the sale of tickets across the country. Here in Iowa, jackpot winners pay 25 percent federal withholding and 5 percent state withholding on their prize.

Eight lottery tickets sold in Iowa have won Powerball jackpots so far, including two just this year alone. The largest Powerball jackpot won in Iowa to date came in June of this year. The Shipping 20, a group of co-workers from the Quaker Oats plant in Cedar Rapids, claimed that $241 million Powerball prize.

Powerball History

Powerball and Mega Millions are both lotto games with jackpots that have climbed into the hundreds of millions of dollars. But until 2010, the games were sold by separate groups of states. Many lotteries, including Iowa, began offering both games in January 2010. In January of this year, Powerball became a $2 game, with predictions that the change would achieve bigger, faster-growing jackpots. The current jackpot run in the game certainly bears that out.

Today, Powerball tickets are sold by 44 lotteries: Iowa, 41 other states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.