"We consider $250 million to be the biggest jackpot for a weekly drawn lotto game ever in the history of the world and it is," Doug Orr, production coordinator for the Multi-State Lottery Association that runs the game, said of Wednesday's estimated jackpot.
The winning numbers drawn Saturday night were: 3, 14, 17, 21, 23 and powerball 16. None of the tickets sold matched all six numbers, but 56 matched the first five numbers to claim $100,000 each.
Only one lottery game has claimed a bigger purse. Last year's Christmas lottery drawing in Spain - named "El Gordo," or "the Fat One" - had a $270 million purse, but the grand prize was only $2 million.
Wednesday's Powerball drawing would represent the biggest jackpot available to one winner. It would beat the U.S. record set in May, when the Powerball jackpot shot to $195 million. An Illinois couple claimed that prize.
Ticket sales for Saturday's drawing were strong, but some sellers said the drawing wasn't whipping up the frenzy last seen for the May 20 drawing.
Lottery officials had predicted that the jackpot would also hit $195 million, but Joe Hrdlicka, spokesman for the Iowa Lottery, said sales did not meet expectations.
"Historically, this is the slowest lottery ticket time of the year," Hrdlicka said. "People are out traveling and they're just not fully engaged. Our sales were great, but they weren't as high as we expected."
Hrdlicka said $100.3 million in last-minute tickets were sold for Saturday's drawing, compared to $138 million for the record jackpot drawing in May.
In Minnesota, lottery officials estimated between 5 million and 6 million tickets would be purchased in the state. In May, more than 7 million tickets were sold in the days before the big jackpot.
"That's mostly because it's July," lottery director George Andersen said. "A million people are on vacation right now."
Some superstitious hopefuls ( including someone from Florida) trekked to the Pell Lake Country store in Pell Lake, Wis., where the Illinois couple brought their ticket.
"Lines haven't been any longer than 15 people deep," said Mark Garapolo, whose father owns the store. "Sales have been brisk, but we're not seeing the kind of lines that other stores are seeing."
Those waiting in line pondered the best way of receiving the winnings. Pick cash, and get a one-time lump payment of $99.9 million. Choose annuities, and get 25 yearly payments of $7.2 million each.
"It depends on your situation," said Steve Roberts, who was buying two tickets at Tait's Foods in Des Moines, Iowa. "Perhaps you think you can do a better job with the money than the lottery, then you take the cash. It's prbably six of one, half-dozen of the other."
Roberts opted to take the cash.
In Powerball, players choose five white numbered balls from a pool of 49 and a red ball from a pool of 42 numbers. The game is played in 20 states and Washington, D.C.
Written by Mike Branom