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How the Powerball jackpot grew to $1.5 billion

On Tuesday, Powerball announced that the already-historic jackpot for its Wednesday night drawing had jumped to $1.5 billion. A day later, lottery officials said the jackpot would jump to $2 billion if there aren't any winners.

The jump in the jackpot's advertised value is largely based on sales projections, says Lee Park, spokesman for the New York State Gaming Commission. The figures have spiked rapidly as each successive lottery drawing garners increased public attention; the advertised jackpot on Dec. 12 was $164 million, but a month later, it stands at $1.5 billion.

The advertised jackpot represents the estimated total annuitized grand prize. That's opposed to the cash prize, which stood at $929.9 million on Wednesday.

Sales projections are based on historical information and the pace of current sales, Park explained, adding that states offering the Powerball game will even take into consideration any expected weather events that may influence how much money comes in.

National sales for Tuesday came in at about $326.6 million, bringing sales for the upcoming drawing to more than $609.2 million, the Texas Lottery announced Wednesday.

Each state contributes exactly half of its ticket revenue to prizes, according to the New York Lottery website.

Of those prize allocations, 68 percent is allocated to the first-prize jackpot, and the remaining funds go to the eight other prize levels.

When a lucky ticket holder claims a prize, funds for the jackpot are pooled from all the states and forwarded to any state with a winner, Park said.

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