SAN JUAN – The more critical Puerto Rico’s economic crisis becomes, the more Puerto Ricans try to strike it rich by winning the Powerball lottery jackpot.
The deputy director of the Puerto Rico Electronic Lottery, Armando Perez, told EFE on Tuesday that Powerball, which debuted on the island in October 2014, wins more devotees every day, and that the island’s eight-year-long recession has not caused any decline in the number of islanders willing to take a gamble.
“The number of wagerers is more than we ever expected,” Perez said, after noting that last Saturday Powerball set a record in Puerto Rico for betting volume: $5.8 million.
“We were told about the long lines of people waiting at many establishments to make their bets, and even about more work shifts being added so everybody could be waited on who wanted to buy a ticket,” the director said.
Puerto Ricans’ Powerball fever parallels the same excitement in the continental United States, where the jackpot for next Wednesday’s drawing has grown to $1.4 billion, the most money in the history of the lottery, after the drawing last Saturday night came and went without a winner.
Powerball is played in 44 states, Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Perez let it be known that in Puerto Rico some $6 million is expected to be wagered on next Wednesday’s lottery, which will set a new record for the Caribbean territory.
The billion-dollar jackpot coincides with some of the dreariest days of the island’s economic collapse, which Perez believes is because having a chance at the Powerball jackpot lets Puerto Ricans dream of leaving all their hardships behind.
As for the immense difficulty of winning the grand prize, he said the best indication that it’s not impossible to win the big one is that since 2014 it has been won twice on the Caribbean island.
Last Saturday the top prize went without a winner and in Puerto Rico the biggest winner was a person who took home $150,000, not an insignificant sum these days, Perez said.
He recalled for those who dream of winning the jackpot on Wednesday that the $1.4 billion will amount to $806 million for the winner who wants to collect it in a lump sum, or what amounts to $22,000 a day for the next 100 years.
Powerball, which belongs to the Multi-State Lottery Association, has only been played in Puerto Rico for a little more than a year and forms part of a Puerto Rican government strategy to boost the amount of funds deposited in public accounts on the Caribbean island.
Electronic Lottery projections indicate that at least $66 million will be collected annually in Puerto Rico from the game, of which 50 percent will be paid out in prizes.