SIKESTON -- If someone wins the estimated $340 million Powerball jackpot tonight, he or she won't be the only one who will benefit from the record prize.
Players matching all but the Powerball number in the same drawing that the jackpot is won will get a larger-than-normal prize, thanks to a bonus that kicks in when the jackpot reaches a record level. Those players could also become millionaires if the jackpot continues to grow, West Virginia Lottery Commission spokeswoman Nancy Bulla said.
And that prospect has drawn even more business to Southeast Missouri's lottery vendors.
"People know their lottery. They play. A lot of them are regulars," said Darla Farquhar, who works in the business office at Boomland in Benton.
Powerball ticket sales have doubled over the last three weeks as the jackpot increased, Farquhar said.
"People are going to do it. They just are," Farquhar said about playing the lottery.
Most of customers spend anywhere from $5 to $10 per ticket on a regular basis, and when the jackpot goes up, regulars will spend up to $50 on tickets, Farquhar noted.
Steve Woods, manager of Quick Chek in Sikeston, estimated lottery ticket sales have almost quadrupled since the pot reached $200 million.
And although sales have increased, Woods said he doesn't think most customers are aware of the changes.
"If it isn't hit (today), it can only increase by $25 million, and the remainder goes into the Match 5 bonus pool," Woods said about the jackpot.
George Gard, owner of P&G Quick Sack in New Madrid, said he has worked to keep customers informed of the changes in the Powerball and the rising jackpot.
"Their eyes just light up when they see the amount," said Gard.
The rising jackpot has prompted many of his regular lottery ticket buyers to increase their purchase. He explained, those who typically spend a dollar, might spend $5 in hopes of winning the record jackpot or the bonus for matching the five numbers.
Normally, a player matching five numbers but not the Powerball wins $200,000. But if there is a record jackpot, Powerball officials cap the next drawing's contribution from ticket sales at $25 million. Any additional money goes into a bonus prize pool for the Match 5 winners.
The Match 5 bonus pool will have an estimated $13 million for Wednesday's drawing, according to the Powerball Web site.
Many players are pooling their resources and their chances, Gard said. He noted he has had several buyers purchasing tickets for a group and one individual from Arkansas plunked down $90 for buyers from that state, which is not a member of the multi-state lottery.
Even Gard has joined in the frenzy. "There are 11 of us here that go in on it - we are all wishing... it would be nice."
Lottery officials said about 30 Match 5 winners are anticipated in Wednesday's drawing, based on previous drawings with large jackpots. If someone wins the jackpot, the Match 5 winners would get an extra $450,000 each.
While Shirley Pease of Sikeston has never won a lot of money playing Powerball, she already has her $5 worth of tickets in hopes of winning Wednesday's record jackpot.
"It is worth $5 for a day's worth of dreaming," said Pease. "You think 'I could help this person or that person and what could I do for myself?' You can dream right up until those numbers are drawn and have fun dreaming."
Pease said she typically plays the same numbers each week - a combination of birth dates - and may buy a couple of quick picks, allowing the machine to pick the numbers.
For those who are attracted to Powerball with its large jackpot, Pease offers a bit of advice: "Don't spend too much, the odds are terrible but you might be that one lucky person."
The odds of matching all six numbers are one in 146 million.
Should there be no Match 5 winners when the jackpot is hit, the bonus pool would go to players who match four numbers and the Powerball. That prize normally is $10,000.
Powerball is played in 27 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The jackpot has been growing since mid August and 20 drawings have passed without a jackpot being won. It is the biggest jackpot in the game's history and eclipses the previous record of $314.9 million won on Christmas Day 2002 by Jack Whittaker of Scott Depot.
When the jackpot is won, it will mark the first time that the Match 5 bonus is awarded. The bonus was created after Whittaker's record win, Bulla said.
On the Net: Powerball: http://www.powerball.com
West Virginia Lottery: www.state.wv.us/lottery