The Powerball jackpot continued its jaw-dropping climb Wednesday, increasing to $550 million - the world's second largest jackpot - just hours before the 9:59 p.m. live drawing tonight. The cash value of the jackpot is $360.2 million.

Before the increase, the advertised jackpot was $500 million. Tonight's drawing will be the 16th in the current jackpot run, which began Oct. 4.

Wednesday morning, the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) that operates the game on behalf of 44 participating lotteries, including the Louisiana Lottery, announced the increase to Powerball's estimated jackpot size based on a surge in sales. In Louisiana, sales since the Nov. 24 Powerball drawing exceed $4.8 million and are expected to increase before tonight's drawing.

The previous Powerball jackpot record was $365 million, claimed in 2006 by a group of co-workers in Nebraska.

There have been 14 Powerball jackpot winners in Louisiana, most recently in July 2010 for $85.7 million.

In Louisiana, Powerball tickets must be purchased by 9 p.m. the night of the drawing. Drawings are broadcast live from Tallahassee, Fla. on Official Louisiana Lottery Draw Show TV stations, a list of which can be found on the Lottery's website.

Players should sign the back of their ticket immediately after purchasing for security purposes and treat their tickets like cash. After the drawing, winners have 180 days to claim their prizes. Players are encouraged to learn the winning combinations for Powerball and check their ticket after the drawing because prizes can be won for matching fewer than all six numbers.

Louisiana Lottery retailers are required to pay prizes of $50 or less and are strongly encouraged to pay prizes of up to $600. Prizes of more than $600 must be claimed at a Lottery office; Powerball prizes of more than $510,000 must be claimed at the Lottery's headquarters in Baton Rouge.

Lottery ticket purchasers must be at least 21 years of age. The Lottery encourages players to play responsibly and reminds them that help for those with gambling problems is available by calling 1-877-770-7867. The Lottery also reminds the public that legitimate lotteries will not contact them by email, phone, postal mail or any other method regarding Powerball prizes.