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The guaranteed winners for the $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot

There may well be several winning tickets for the $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot, but no matter what happens after the Wednesday night drawing, there will definitely be at least one group of winners.

As the jackpot climbs higher, states are looking at bigger revenues for their own coffers, since increased public awareness and excitement breed higher ticket sales.

By way of example, New York state saw about $4 million in lottery ticket sales during one hour this past Saturday — a major increase over normal levels, according to Lee Park, spokesman for the New York State Gaming Commission.

Since the current Powerball jackpot started rolling in November, New York alone has seen $182.8 million in sales for that lottery. And while much of that will go toward prizes, that revenue means about $64 million in aid to education, Park said.

"If you look at the total sales for this jackpot, this is uncharted territory for us," he said. "And it's all great news for public education."

Customers purchase tickets for the Powerball lottery
Gene Blevins | Reuters
Customers purchase tickets for the Powerball lottery

In fact, Powerball sales have seen a marked increase for New York: The state saw a 7.8 percent jump from $281.73 million in 2014 to $302.52 million in 2015, according to data provided by the commission.

And the money keeps rolling in for states ahead of the big drawing. Texas' lottery posted on Twitter that it has seen about $1.3 million in sales during one hour on Tuesday morning, and Park said New York had achieved the same feat, adding that his office expected a big buying spike during regular commuting hours on Wednesday.

In New York, the vast majority of lottery revenue that isn't distributed in prizes goes to education. Park said only about 5 percent of sales go to administration costs for gaming's "pretty lean operation," while the rest is distributed to local school districts.

During fiscal year 2014 New York transferred more than $3.1 billion from its lottery system to education, according to data from lottery-focused publication La Fleur's. Park said the state was likely on track to top that figure.

Most states transfer a portion of their lottery revenues to education funds, but there's a diverse collection of other uses for the money. Wisconsin, for example, used $168.37 million worth of lottery sales for property tax relief in fiscal year 2014, according to La Fleur's. Oregon, meanwhile, transferred $507.25 million in lottery revenue to its economic development fund in FY 2014, La Fleur's reported.

Powerball is played in 44 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Alabama, Mississippi, Nevada, Utah, Alaska and Hawaii do not participate in the game.

Despite these figures, many remain unimpressed by the amount of money that state-run lotteries bring in for education and other civic works.

A 2014 episode of HBO's "Last Week Tonight" attacked the concept that lotteries serve as charitable foundations, anda follow-up analysis from FiveThirtyEight found that about two-thirds of revenue goes to prizes among 43 states for which the outlet could collect data.