DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Perplexed that it seems no one can win the gigantic $1.5 billion Powerball prize?

A big reason is that people aren’t buying as many tickets for each drawing as they did five or six years ago.

When fewer people buy tickets, a smaller percentage of the millions of possible number combinations are covered and the likelihood of a winner drops. The next drawing will be held Saturday night.

Of course, many people still are playing Powerball and Mega Millions, the other lottery game offered in most of the country. It’s ticket sales from those Powerball players that fund the prizes and enabled the jackpot to soar by $300 million after there wasn’t a big winner Wednesday night.

In the last drawing for a $1.2 billion jackpot, 46.6% of the 292.2 million possible number combinations were covered. That was up from the 36.3% of all possible number combinations that were picked for Monday night’s drawing, reflecting that ticket sales rise as jackpots climb higher.

But the percentage remains far less than when a record $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot was on the line on Jan. 13, 2016. Back then, ticket sales were so strong that 88.6% of the possible combinations were covered, according to the Urbandale, Iowa-based Multi-State Lottery Association. A few days before that record 2016 drawing, there was a coverage of 77.8% for a $900 million Powerball prize.

The association notes, however, that Powerball drawings are held three times a week, so even if tickets sold for individual drawings are less, overall sales can be roughly comparable because of the extra game each week.

“It’s very difficult to make a comparison between now and five years ago because this is not really an apples-to-apples comparison,” said Drew Svitko, the Pennsylvania Lottery’s executive director and chairman of the Powerball Product Group.

Even as no one hit the jackpot by matching all five white numbers and the red Powerball, quite a few came achingly close.

Powerball officials note that 19 tickets matched the five white balls and missed the Powerball — earning the players $1 million, or $2 million if they paid extra for a “prize multiplier.” And 238 tickets matched four white balls as well as the Powerball.

There have been 39 consecutive drawings without a Powerball winner, dating back to Aug. 6, and if that winless streak hits 40 drawings after Saturday night, the jackpot will certainly grow to be the largest ever in the U.S. and globally.

The record number of consecutive Powerball drawings without a winner is 41, which ended on Oct. 4, 2021, with a $699.8 million winner in California.

Until someone wins this time, the biggest prize remains a $1.586 billion Powerball jackpot won in 2016 by three ticketholders in California, Florida and Tennessee. That stands just ahead of a $1.537 billion Mega Millions prize won in 2018 by a ticketholder in South Carolina.

The $1.5 billion prize on Saturday night is for winners who take an annuity, paid annually over 29 years. Most winners choose cash, and for the next drawing that would be $745.9 million.

Powerball is played in 45 states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.