In a few hours, some lucky lottery ticket owner could be a multimillionaire.
The Powerball jackpot is $131 million. If anyone matches the six numbers that are drawn tonight, Jan. 3, the lump sum payout is $84.3 million.
UPDATE, Sunday, Jan. 4: Nobody won the big Powerball jackpot last night. It rolls over to the drawing on Wednesday, Jan. 7, when an estimated $146 million, $95.1 cash value, is up for grabs.
Now that's a nice way to start a new year, even if you do have to also set aside part of your winnings to pay the Internal Revenue Service and, depending on where you live, the state tax collector.
But the potential of becoming an instant millionaire doesn't end tonight. Another multistate drawing will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 6.
Next week's Mega Millions take is currently at $206 million, with a lump sum payout of $131 million. That's no typo; the Mega Millions one-time take is the same as the overall jackpot for Powerball.
UPDATE, Wednesday, Jan. 7: No winner in last night's Mega Millions drawing. An estimated $221 million jackpot will be on the line on Friday, Jan. 9.
And the possible winnings for next week likely will grow as the drawing gets closer.
Yes, I've wasted a few bucks on the dream of becoming a lady or leisure. I know my chances are not good, but they're zero if I don't pick a few numbers.
States no longer big lottery winners: But the millions of us taking a shot on a few numbers aren't the only losers, according to a recent CBS Moneywatch story.
"Lotteries have always been a terrible bet for players, but now they're becoming a dicier gamble for states as well," writes Jonathan Berr. He cites data from the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries that shows the $17.5 billion in lottery sales for 2014's third quarter were essentially the same as the $17.6 billion a year earlier.
How much states depend on lottery money varies in each jurisdiction. But in most cases, the gambling dollars are used to fund programs that otherwise would have to be paid solely by state taxes.
Lottery revenue was originally designed to supplement the regular take from state taxpayers. Educational programs are the most common recipient of lottery money, but some states spread around the betting dollars. Pennsylvania's lottery spending is earmarked for senior citizens, writes Berr, while Iowa uses its money to help veterans.
And over the years, lottery money has become more essential to state coffers, especially during tough economic times.
There are continual charges, however, from gambling foes that the programs for which the lottery dollars are intended don't really get as much money as the pro-betting contingent claims.
The recent slump in overall lottery ticket sales is just adding to the debate.
Right now, however, state officials are hoping that early 2015's dual giant jackpots are a good omen.
So are we numbers-playing residents.
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