Powerball Fever Sweeps the Nation, Fuels $500 Million Jackpot

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty ImagesUPDATE: The Powerball jackpot is now up to $550 million.

(NEW YORK) -- The allure of the record $500 million Powerball jackpot has led to long lines across the nation at local mini-marts and gas stations, with Americans hoping their champagne and caviar dreams become a reality when the numbers are drawn Wednesday night.

The jackpot was boosted on Tuesday from $425 million to the now historic $500 million sum, which is expected to get sweeter as millions of Americans rush to the store for their last chance to purchase a ticket and become a multi-millionaire overnight.

Powerball officials tell ABC News they expect to sell more than 105,000 tickets every minute before the drawing.  When the dust settles, more than 189 million tickets would have been sold for the half a billion-dollar jackpot.  That's more than double the number sold for Saturday's $325 million jackpot that nobody won.

ABC News was allowed access to the Powerball studios in Tallahassee, Fla., where the 11 p.m. ET drawing will take place.  The closely guarded machines and balls are locked in a vault before the numbers are drawn and only a select few are allowed inside the room during the actual broadcast.

Anyone who enters or leaves the vault is documented and workers who handle the lottery balls wear gloves, worried that human touch might change what numbers are randomly drawn.

Cameras are located in every nook and cranny of the Powerball studio, spying on workers as they ready the machines for the big moment.  Lottery officials in several states will be watching those feeds in real time to monitor the proceedings.

Powerball tickets for Wednesday night's jackpot are not offered in eight states.  But that has not stopped many Californians and Nevadans who have flocked to Arizona to get in on the action.

"I'd say the line has to be like three, three and a half hours," one person told ABC News while waiting online to purchase tickets on Tuesday.

Still, the long lines have not deterred those who hope to dramatically change their lifestyle and make their wildest dreams become a reality.

"I'm going to the Bahamas and enjoying myself on an island," said one Powerball hopeful.

Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Des Moines, Iowa-based Multi-State Lottery Association, said the chance of getting a winner Wednesday night is approaching 60 percent.

There has been no Powerball winner since Oct. 6 -- that's 16 consecutive drawings without a winner.  It's the second-highest jackpot in U.S. lottery history, behind only the $656 million Mega Millions prize in March.

Lottery officials put the odds of winning Wednesday's Powerball pot at one in 175 million.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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