The Mega Millions jackpot is inching towards a US lottery record, soaring to 586 million dollars (£360m) amid a frenzy of ticket purchases and raising the possibility that the prize could pass the once-unthinkable billion-dollar mark by Christmas Eve.
Paula Otto, executive director of the Virginia Lottery and lead director for Mega Millions, said ticket sales were ahead of projections for today's draw, increasing the likelihood it could shatter the current record of 656 million dollars (£402m), set in a March 2012 Mega Millions draw.
That was enough for Drew Gentsch to buy one ticket Monday morning. The lawyer from Des Moines, Iowa, never plays, but the ballooning jackpot was just too good to pass up.
"I think it's ridiculous but you have to dream big," he said. "The odds of winning are so low, there's no real reason to play. But it's fun to do so once in a while."
The huge Mega Millions prize is the product of a major game revamp in October that dramatically lowered the odds of winning the jackpot. If a winner is not selected tonight and it rolls over past the next draw on Friday night, Ms Otto predicts the jackpot will reach one billion dollars (£613m) - an unheard of amount for Mega Millions or Powerball, the two main multi-state US lottery games.
The current jackpot, which is the fourth largest in US history and closely trails the 587.5 million and 590.5 million-dollar jackpots set by Powerball, has had heavy sales over the last several days.