Powerball jackpot hits $550M, sparks frenzy

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The Powerball jackpot is at a record high of more than $550 million, and even people who don't normally play are getting in on the action. 

The jackpot was boosted to $500 million on Tuesday and raised again Wednesday morning to $550 million. You can buy tickets until 9:58 pm. The drawing is at 10:59 pm.

A winner taking the cash option would get $360.2 million before taxes.

The numbers are an estimate and could be increased again as the drawing nears.

Powerball officials say they now believe there is a 75 percent chance that the winning combination of numbers will be drawn Wednesday night.

At the Village Pantry in Zionsville Wednesday morning, Powerball tickets were actually being given away.

You have a better chance of becoming president, or being struck by lightning many times than you have of winning the jackpot. (It's a chance of one in about 175 million.) But with half a billion dollars on the line, it's worth a shot.

That's what people in 42 states including Indiana are thinking, which is why they've been buying up those Powerball tickets to the tune of $1 billion so far.

Regina Thames bought her chance at the Dinner Bell on the south side. "I want a merry Christmas. I want to take a cruise for Christmas," she said. With $550 million - even after taxes - she could go on a lot of cruises.

Melissa Miller only plays "when the amount gets very, very high."

Powerball costs $2 a ticket to play.

In the highly unlikely chance that you win the jackpot, past winners of mega-lottery drawings and financial planners have some more sound advice: stick to a budget, invest wisely, learn to say no and be prepared to lose friends while riding an emotional roller-coaster.

Tales of big lottery winners who wind up in financial ruin or other desperate straits are increasingly common.

A two-time New Jersey lottery winner squandered her $5.4 million fortune. And a West Virginia man who won $315 million a decade ago on Christmas later said the windfall was to blame for his granddaughter's fatal drug overdose and his divorce.

It's not all doom and gloom, though. Eyewitness News found in a recent report that a small group of Hoosiers are relatively happy after hitting it big. Read their stories here.

Powerball stats

Hoosier Lottery retailers lead the nation in Powerball jackpot wins, having sold 38 jackpot winning tickets since the game started in 1992.

Powerball players in Indiana have also walked away with some of the game's bigger jackpots, including $314.5 million and $295 million jackpots both won in Richmond in 2007 and 1998.

In April 2011, two players in Clarksville snagged a $221.7 million jackpot. A $165 million Powerball jackpot was won in Lawrenceburg in 2009.

In fiscal year 2012, the Hoosier Lottery generated $211 million in surplus revenue which was used to significantly reduce the motor vehicle excise tax for all Hoosier drivers and also supported the pension funds for retired Indiana teachers, police and firefighters.

Player prizes for the fiscal year totaled $533 million and $60 million was earned by Indiana retailers on the sale of Hoosier Lottery products.

Since its inception in 1989, the Hoosier Lottery has produced more than $4 billion for Indiana residents, $1 billion in commissions and bonuses for participating Indiana retailers, and has paid out more than $8.8 billion in player prizes.