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Powerball jackpot hits $550 million, may rise with lottery fever

Powerball LotteryMega Millions Lottery

As a near-record Powerball jackpot continued to rise Thursday, another wave of lottery fever began to sweep the U.S.

But this time, Californians can try their luck.

The estimated $550-million jackpot is not only the third-biggest for a lottery draw game, but marks the largest since the Golden State began selling Powerball tickets April 8.

"We couldn't have asked for a better situation," California Lottery spokesman Russ Lopez said.

California lottery hopefuls have embraced the new game. Large lines turned out for the first day of sales -- which set a Powerball record -- and Lopez said the state has contributed about $82 million in all toward the jackpot.

On Wednesday -- the day of the last drawing -- the state sold $8.7 million worth of Powerball tickets, second only to New York.

"It's been rolling ever since we joined," Lopez said. "It's great for the players, but it's great for the game as well."

To win the jackpot, players must match five numbers along with the Powerball number. Tickets cost $2, and the odds of winning are about 1 in 175 million.

The largest Powerball jackpot so far was $587.6 million in November, and the largest lottery jackpot of any kind in U.S. history was a $656-million prize in a Mega Millions game in March 2012. Lopez said that the latest Powerball game might produce an even bigger jackpot by Saturday's drawing.

"We're hearing that number will maybe go up tomorrow," he said.

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kate.mather@latimes.com

Twitter: @katemather | Google+

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