By Carolyn Pesce
There's a new kind of March Madness going on today.
It's called the $320 million Powerball jackpot, and it's expected to get even bigger as people scramble for tickets before tonight's drawing.
The jackpot surged to its current amount after no ticket that was sold matched all six numbers on Wednesday night. There wasn't a big winner Wednesday but three ticket holders in Kentucky, Hawaii and Florida won $1 million each after matching five numbers.
Tonight's jackpot is the sixth-highest ever.
"Typically, 60% of sales occur the last day,'' says Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association.
The odds of pulling the six winning numbers are slim: one in 175 million. Ticket sales are in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Tickets are normally available about an hour before the drawing. A cash payout of tonight's drawing would be $198.3 million.
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In Pennsylvania, state lottery officials said residents have purchased more than 2 million $2 Powerball tickets for tonight's drawing, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The state joined Powerball in 2002.
Since then, Pennsylvania has sold 16 Powerball jackpots, most recently in April to a Philadelphia group called SEPTA 48 for more than $107 million.
"I'd take care of my family, and then go on a trip to the south of France and invest the rest of it," Raymond Pierce, a 58-year-old Medicare grievance analyst from Baldwin, Pa., told the newspaper. He bought a Powerball ticket inside Smithfield News in Pittsburgh on Friday night.
"I'd pay off everything I owe and then move to London or something," said 21-year-old Brenton Dorsey of West Mifflin. Or maybe he'd build his own house somewhere southern and hot, like Texas.
Dorsey told the newspaper he's studying sports management at Point Park University and has been buying a Powerball ticket twice a week during the past few months in an effort to make some money.
In Wisconsin, sales are expected to reach $2 million for tonight's drawing, said Andrew Bohage, spokesman for the state lottery. In 2012, lottery sales totaled $587 million in Wisconsin.
Without a winner tonight, Bohage said, the next jackpot could exceed $500 million.
As people play the odds, local convenience stores in Green Bay, Wis., were experiencing increased traffic with people purchasing tickets.
The De Pere Superstore regularly sees an uptick in sales with a big jackpot, said Cassie McPherson, the store's manager.
"I've seen quite a few sales," she said. "It starts early Thursday morning, and sales go straight through until Saturday" for the drawing.
McPherson said she expects to sell more than $5,000 in tickets before the drawing.
The largest jackpot in the history of the multistate lottery was worth $580 million and was split between winners in Missouri and Arizona in November.
Mark and Cindy Hill, who live in Dearborn, Mo., won half of that jackpot and made headlines when they announced they would invest their winnings in the nearby community where Mark Hill grew up.
The couple have given substantial amounts of money to civic projects in Camden Point, Mo., including more than $50,000 for land for a new sewage treatment plant and money to buy a new fire station and ball field.
The couple, who both graduated from North Platte High School in Dearborn, started a scholarship fund at the school.
Contributing: Green Bay (Wis.) Press Gazette; The Associated Press.