Powerball jackpot is fastest ever to top $300 million

And watch out if it rolls over. The lottery had its three biggest jackpots in less than a year.

A $448 million Powerball jackpot was hit by three tickets in early August 2013. New Jersey sold two of them, including one bought for 16 workers at the Ocean County Vehicle Services Department. Its director, James Pine (green shirt) spoke with the media on Aug. 9, 2013. (Tom Kelly lll / For the Inquirer)

Powerball has the country hooked.

Since the start of 2012, Powerball has had its three biggest jackpots ever -- with two of them topping a half-billion dollars -- and four other jackpots surpassing the $300 million mark.

That's more than half of the jackpots to reach that level in the two decades since the game began in 1992.

See: "Biggest jackpots in U.S. lottery history"

See: "Bucks County ticket wins $2 million in Powerball"

The jackpots are also growing faster than ever, with Saturday's jackpot of $317 million crossing the $300 million mark in a record fewest 10 rollovers.

It broke the mark of 11 set by the previous jackpot, which broke the record of 12 set in March and matched in May.

The next three fastest were the three last year.

Of course, a lot of the explanation is that Powerball made some significant changes in January 2012. The minimum jackpot was raised to $40 million, ensuring an even bigger headstart over rival Mega Millions, which reboots to $12 million. (That will get tweaked next month.) Each rollover was also guaranteed to increase by at least $10 million. Finally, the price of each Powerball ticket was doubled to $2, providing more fuel for the frenzy as jackpots got gigantic.

Also crucial, though, is that the public has responded.

After all, if the masses balked at two bills, or thought, ah, "A million or two's plenty for me, so I'll play some state game with 10 times better odds," Powerball would have had a failed experiment.

Instead of a record-setting success.

If this jackpot rolls over, watch out. In early August, the Powerball jackpot soared from $300 million to $448.4 million. In May, it skyrocketed from $350 million to $590.5 million. In November, $325 million rose to $587.5 million.

For more, go to Powerball.com.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.