The Powerball prize skyrocketed from $675 million in 24 hours as a staggering number of people bought tickets. No winner claimed Wednesday's jackpot draw, which was worth a mere half-billion dollars.
With the jackpot, and excitement, mounting, long lines formed at stores selling lottery tickets, so the prize continued to grow.
In the Powerball lottery, which takes place each Wednesday and Saturday at 8:59 pm, five white balls are drawn from a drum containing 69 balls, and one red one is pulled from a drum with 26.
To win the jackpot, a ticket holder has to match all the numbers on the six balls selected. The winner can choose to be paid the full jackpot in annual installments over 29 years — or take a lower one-off payment in cash.
The lump sum in Saturday's prize would be $496 million before federal taxes, the Multi-State Lottery Association said. The previous jackpot record of $656 million, in March 30, 2012, was scooped by three winners from North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Texas.
Gloria Mackenzie, 84, from Florida holds the record for winning the largest single Powerball jackpot, $590.5 million, on May 18, 2013.
The world's richest lottery is Spain's annual Christmas "El Gordo," which in 2015 handed out 2.2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) but which capped individual wins at 400,000 euros and handed out thousands of smaller prizes.
Powerball is played in 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.