Inside Powerball: A behind-the-scenes look at how drawings work

(CBS News) The odds were 175 million-to-one, but a Powerball ticket buyer in Michigan matched all the numbers Wednesday night, winning a jackpot estimated to be $337 million. Lottery officials say the one winning ticket was sold at a Sunoco station in Lapeer, Mich., north of Detroit.

$337M Powerball drawing: One winning ticket sold

More than 86 million tickets were sold across the country. While drawing six numbers might look simple, you may be surprised by how much work goes into pulling it off.

Sue Dooley, senior drawing manager of the Multi-State Lottery Association, told CBS News, "A lot of people when they find out what I do, they think, 'Oh well you come in five minutes before, pull out the equipment, then you're done.'"

Dooley took CBS News behind the scenes of the Powerball drawings in Tallahassee, Fla. The preparation starts two hours before the live drawing - while many last-minute tickets are still being bought.

"Every player, when they put down their $2 for a Powerball ticket, has an equal chance of winning just as much as anyone else," Dooley said.

Four people must be present to even unlock the vault where the machines, and multiple sets of lottery balls, are stored. The balls used for any given drawing are chosen randomly. Dooley said, "No one knows which machines will be used until right before the drawing."

At 9:30 p.m., the equipment is moved into the studio, and the load-in begins. CBS News couldn't hold one of the balls for security reasons.

The red and white balls are made of rubber. Each one costs $60, has a lifespan of two to three years, and weighs around 80 grams. The lottery balls used must be as close in weight as possible. The average difference is a mere three-tenths of a gram. The machines, which cost $55,000 each, are then tested.

But officials here are not the only ones keeping a close eye on things. There are cameras everywhere, which are monitored outside Des Moines, Iowa, at the Multi-State Lottery Association headquarters.

There's a lot at stake. Powerball tickets are sold in 42 of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Since 1992, Powerball has awarded $20 billion in prize money.

An hour before the 11 p.m. ET drawing, the final rehearsals are getting underway in Florida, while officials in Iowa count the latest returns so the most accurate jackpot total can be announced during the live drawing. At 10:30, the final load-in is completed, and, then, it's time to wait. Counting down the minutes, then the seconds before the big moment.

Before the drawing on a night with a big payout, host Sam Arlen said he feels the pressure. "It's the first opportunity America gets to see the winning numbers. That's one of the coolest things about what I do. It's not in the paper the next day. ... It's not on the evening news. ... It's the first shot for many people. ... This is where you get to see if your $2 just paid off really big."

And they did. Within an hour of the drawing, the folks in Iowa got word: There was a winning ticket.

Though it is known that the winning ticket was purchased in Michigan, it is currently unknown who the owner or owners might be. And it could be weeks before someone comes forward.


For Manuel Bojorquez's full report, watch the video in the player above.

  • Manuel Bojorquez

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