SAN DIEGO -- Powerball officials say the jackpot has climbed to more than $600 million, making it the largest prize in the game's history and the world's second largest lottery prize.
Lottery officials say the prize grew quickly Friday because so many people have been buying the $2 tickets.
The last jackpot was won on March 30, so it's been growing for about six weeks. The next drawing is Saturday night.
The largest jackpot ever was a $656 million Mega Millions prize won in March 2012. The prize was split three ways with winners in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland.
Odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are about 1 in 175 million.
The numbers sum up the frenzy that has taken over the Golden State since it joined the madness over Powerball.
California has sold more than $85 million worth of Powerball tickets since April, when it joined 42 other states that offer the game. Since then, the most populous state has accounted for 11 percent of the game's sales, fueling such fast-growing mega-jackpots like the latest one that has the potential to be a record-breaker.
The state expects to generate well above the originally estimated $50 million for public education, said California lottery director Robert O'Neill.
Californians have Nevadans to thank for some of that money.
California's biggest ticket-seller is the Primm Valley Lotto Store, which straddles the state line in tiny Nipton, a 19th century mining and ranching town on the edge of the Mojave desert whose lottery sales have put it on the map in modern times.
Roxie Handley figured all 80 of its residents would have a ticket in hand by Saturday. That's if they can find the time.
"Here in Nipton, it's crazy," said Handley, 59, who manages the Nipton Trading Post, which also sells Powerball tickets. "We're stocking up on everything. Last night, I heard some people had to wait nine hours in line."
The town is about 35 miles from Las Vegas on the main interstate from the Los Angeles area. Residents of the nation's No. 1 gambling state do not have access to the lottery. The Nevada state constitution contains a prohibition on lotteries, which are seen as competition to the casino industry.
Norma Wagoner was among the Nevadans trying their luck. She and a group of friends pooled their money to buy 20 tickets and sent one over the state border to endure the long lines.
"Everybody has dreams," she said. "All it takes is one ticket."
Lottery officials expect jackpots to continue growing faster and bigger, thanks in part to a game redesign in January 2012 that increased the odds of winning some kind of prize of a lesser amount. On Wednesday, $1 million prizes were won in 16 states, and $2 million prizes were won in two states. California had six tickets among the winning ones Wednesday, including one sold in Nipton.
"The Idaho Lottery has seen its draw game sales dramatically increase in the past few days, due to the unprecedented events where both big jackpot games have very large prizes available," said Idaho Lottery Director Jeff Anderson. "There is a lot of excitement and a lot of anticipation surrounding these games right now. We want to strongly emphasize to everyone to please play responsibly. Enjoy the games and imagine what you might do if you win, but please only play what you can afford. Do not go overboard."
For Nipton, folks feel they've already won thanks to the boom in business.
"It kind of disrupts our peace and quiet," said Handley, although she admits she too plans to snap up a ticket.
Most of the talk she hears around town these days, she says, is of people daydreaming about quitting their jobs and traveling with their millions: "Everybody wants a piece of the pie."
But she said she would likely give most of it away.
"Having a lot of money I think would be a lot of headache," she said. "Nipton has a lot of history. It's the place to come if you want to get away. We have a five-room bed and breakfast with no phones, no TVs, where you can sit and watch the trains go by. It's our little piece of heaven. I have things money can't buy."