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Powerball Lottery Hits $175M

Hoping to win the world's richest lottery jackpot? Dream on.

You're 40 times more likely to die falling out of bed and 320 times more likely to perish in a plane crash than you are to win even a piece of the $175 million Powerball jackpot being drawn Wednesday night.

Not that that is discouraging some people from buying tickets.

"Somebody's got to win. Why not me?" Mary Whiting of Charleston said Tuesday.

People lined up to buy tickets in the District of Columbia and the 20 states that take part in the Powerball lottery.

One store in New Castle, Del., chose to close rather than deal with a line that stretched outside the door. The store had to call the police to handle customers angry at leaving empty-handed, some after waiting four hours to put down their bets.

The odds of matching all six numbers for a share of the jackpot are 80.1 million-to-1. But the odds of just person one hitting the numbers and winning all the money are, well, forget it.

The chances are 60 percent to 70 percent that there will be at least two winners, said Charles Strutt, executive director of the West Des Moines-based Multi-State Lottery Association, which handles Powerball.

According to The Book of Risks by Larry Laudan, a philosophy professor at the University of Hawaii, the odds of dying are:

3 million-to-1 by freezing to death,
2 million-to-1 by falling out of bed,
250,000-to-1 in a plane crash, and
5,000-to-1 in a car crash.

Still, "there's always that chance of winning," Melissa Browder of Elkview said as she and two friends bought $20 worth of tickets. "And you'd never have to work anymore."

Having to divide the pot might be just right for Mary Lee Whiting of Charleston: "That's too much money for me anyway."

The biggest jackpot ever won in the United States was $118.8 million in the California lottery in 1991. The jackpot was split 10 ways.

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 represents the biggest jackpot available to one winner.

Those buying Powerball tickets can indicate on their stub whether they want the jackpot in one lump sum of $61.6 million after taxes or $4.6 million spread out over 25 years.

One man who won't play is James Casino of Star City.

"I played a long time ago," said the retired forklift operator. "It's like anything else, you can walk out there and get hit with a star."

For the record, the odds of getting hit by a meteorite are 5 billion-to-1.

Written by A.V. Gallacher ©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed