Winning tickets in the nearly US$1.6-billion Powerball lottery were sold in California, Florida and Tennessee, officials say, leaving at least three people to split the record-setting jackpot.
California Lottery officials confirmed that the winning six numbers had been purchased at a convenience store outside Los Angeles, as well as at locations in Florida and Tennessee. The identity of the winners was not yet known.
Lottery officials said it could be several hours before it is known whether there are other winners in the 44 states, Washington, DC and two US territories where Powerball is played.
The six winning numbers were 08, 27, 34, 04, 19 and Powerball 10. They were picked during a late Wednesday (local time) draw for the US$1.586 billion prize (NZ$2.441 billion) at lottery offices in Tallahassee, Florida.
In Chino Hills, a suburb east of Los Angeles, crowds descended on a 7-Eleven store where the winning ticket had been bought, snapping pictures and congratulating staff. The store will receive a US$1-million bonus for selling the ticket.
Lottery officials had said 85.8 percent of possible number combinations had been selected by midday Wednesday in what some had been saying was the biggest lottery jackpot in the world.
But the odds of winning were still slim at one in 292.2 million.
The prospect of a huge payout sparked a ticket-buying frenzy that was expected to reach a rate of $1.3 million per minute during the evening commuter rush hour, Gary Grief, executive director of the Texas lottery, told a news conference.
For every $1 worth of Powerball sales, half goes to prizes, 40 percent to causes such as education, and 10 percent to retailers who sell the tickets and other administrative costs, Grief said.
The winners can choose to have the payment in a lump sum of US$930 million (NZ$1.431 billion) after tax, or the full US$1.5B in payments over 29 years.
AAP / 3 News