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Powerball officials say the record jackpot has been won.
Early Thursday morning officials confirmed that two winning tickets were sold: One in Arizona and one in Missouri. An additional 8,924,123 players won smaller prizes, including 68,017 in North Carolina, where prizes ranged from $4 to $40,000 and totaled $527,442.
The numbers drawn Wednesday night are: 5, 16, 22, 23, 29 and Powerball of 6. A lottery official said late Wednesday that the jackpot increased to $579.9 million by the time of the drawing, making the cash option $379.8 million. The drawing Wednesday night for the Multi-State Lottery Association's prize followed 16 consecutive drawings that produced no top winner, boosting the Powerball to the second-largest potential lottery payout in U.S. history.
Tickets earlier Wednesday were selling at a rate of 130,000 a minute nationwide, the jackpot enticing many people who rarely, if ever, play the lottery.
On Wednesday, WBTV stopped in at The Pop Shoppe on Old Pineville Road in Charlotte where Mathew Lopez decided to jump in the Powerball jackpot. "First time. This is it" says Lopez, who added he couldn't resist the temptation because "everybody is out here - just like a little phenomenon going on here. Everybody parking and running in here buying a ticket". But could he handle the more than $300 million in cash payout? "I don't know - good vacation - I know that", says Lopez.
Sunny Singh also popped in to buy a ticket. He says he's not a regular. "I buy once in a while when I come here. I just get one. I heard it was a big one so I bought it", says Singh.
Edward Johnson is a veteran Powerball player. He has regular numbers he plays everyday. In fact, Johnson says "I won $5,000.00 one week and won the next week". But the $550 million jackpot had him salivating. "This is the one I want to hit. That's the one I want", he says.
This year, the Powerball saw a change when the cost of a ticket doubled to $2 – leading to a bigger jackpot and more winners.
Since that change, Powerball reports sales revenues nationally have increased by about 35% compared to 2011, to a record $3.96 billion.
Lottery officials in both Carolinas have noticed the change and are reporting brisk ticket sales across state lines.
Paula Harper Bethea, Lottery's Executive Director, says "With all the media attention, you can't hide from this half-a-billion dollar jackpot, but we want to urge those new to the game and those loyal to Powerball® to please play responsibly."
Bethea went on to say once the frenzy has passed, the real winner is education.
That's because the lottery was established with the sole purpose to generate revenue for education.
Powerball drawings are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10:59 p.m. EST. On drawing nights, ticket sales in North Carolina end at 9:59 p.m.
Players tell WBTV what they would have done with all the winnings.
"Well first I would change my phone number," said Maxwell Millington.
"And then I would probably buy my mom a house and by myself a house and probably invest in something."
"The first thing that I would do is pay off my mortgage and my whole family's mortgages," said Jeff Boenisch.
"The first thing I would do is probably pay for my education and my cousin's," said Erin Fenton.
"If I stayed in Charlotte I would probably live out in Lake Norman," said Millington.
"Or if not I'd get a nice beach house, call it a day and chill."
But tales of exorbitant spending sprees by past winners makes these potential winners cautious.
"The first thing I would do is go to a financial advisor," said Boenisch.
"I just don't want to blow it all away," said Millington.
While it may be fun to dream about what you'd do with $425 million, the odds of winning Wednesday are slim: 1 in 175 million, according to the North Carolina Lottery.
Whoever does win faces a hefty tax withholding, including 25 percent for federal taxes and 7 percent withholdings for state taxes.
Powerball is played in 42 states, Washington DC and the US Virgin Islands.