By Gary Strauss, USA TODAY
Saturday's whopping $550 million Powerball jackpot just got even bigger: a record $600 million.
For those opting for one-time cash payment, that's worth a pre-tax $376.9 million.
Surging ticket sales prompted the Multi-State Lottery Association to boost the Powerball jackpot Friday, hours ahead of tonight's drawing for rival Mega Millions lottery, which has a $190 million jackpot. State lottery officials say the combined $790 million jackpots are the biggest ever for a weekend lottery.
"This is beyond water cooler talk,'' says Iowa Lottery spokeswoman Mary Neubauer. "Everyone wants a shot at it. When jackpots get to this level, we see sales three to four times normal. The universe of palyers expands to occasional players and a lot of first-timers jumping in."
The previous Powerball jackpot record: November 2012's $587.5 million.
The numbers have prompted a frenzy in some states, including California, which just began offering Powerball tickets in April. Overall, the state now accounts for about 11% of the game's national sales.
California's biggest ticket-seller is the Primm Valley Lotto Store, which straddles the state line in tiny Nipton, a 19th century mining and ranching town on the edge of the Mojave desert.
"It's crazy," said Roxie Handley, manager of the Nipton Trading Post. "Last night, I heard some people had to wait nine hours in line."
Nipton, is 35 miles from Las Vegas. Residents of the nation's No. 1 gambling state don't have access to the lottery because the state's constitution prohibits them because they are seen as competition to the casino industry.
Norma Wagoner was among the Nevadans trying their luck. She and a group of friends pooled their money to buy 20 tickets and sent one over the state border to endure the long lines.
"Everybody has dreams," she said. "All it takes is one ticket."
Contributing: Associated Press