African-American Woman Wins MegaMillions Jackpot


It’s unreal … like I’m still dreaming,” she told lottery officials Wednesday after hearing her family’s numbers announced. Curry bought her winning ticket at Gateway Newsstands on the ground floor of the Alliance Center building across from Phipps Plaza in Buckhead. Her employer (or soon to be former we’re guessing) Apsen Insurance  issued a statement to NBC News congratulating Curry on her win.

Lottery officials say a Georgia woman is one of two winners of the $648 million Mega Millions jackpot, while California officials are still waiting to hear from their winner.

The woman was identified as Ira Curry, of Stone Mountain, east of Atlanta. Officials say she bought one ticket and chose the numbers herself, using family birthdays and her family’s lucky number, which is 7.

The winning numbers are 8, 14, 17, 20 and 39, with the Mega Ball number 7. The winners can choose to be paid over time or in a cash lump sum, Mega Millions Executive Director Paula Otto told The Associated Press. Based on the $648 million figure, the winners would receive $324 million each over time or $173 million each in cash.

“That’s not bad for a dollar or two investment,” said Russ Lopez, deputy director of communications for the California state lottery.

Otto said the lucky Georgia ticket in Tuesday’s drawing was sold at a Gateway Newsstand in the affluent Buckhead area of Atlanta.

Newsstand co-owner Young Soo Lee grinned as she arrived Wednesday morning at the shop off the lobby of the Alliance Center office building. The newsstand — a small, long shop with one register that can hold perhaps 10 people at a time — is frequented by workers at the office building, which sits across the street from an upscale mall.

“I’m so excited and nervous too,” Soo Lee told Fox 5 News. She said she sold around 1,300 tickets at the store on the day of the drawing.

Young Lee, the other owner of the newsstand, said Wednesday that he hadn’t heard anything official from the state lottery office yet. But still, he said, “this is good for me and my family,” noting the publicity that the winning ticket would bring the store, even without a bonus.

Georgia Lottery spokeswoman Tandi Reddick said Wednesday that the owners would not get any bonus beyond the 6 percent commission all retail outlets received based on lottery sales.

“They do have the distinction of being known as the lucky store now, and that’s always great news for them,” Reddick said.

The California ticket was sold at Jennifer’s Gift Shop, which sits along San Jose’s tree-lined Tully Road, amid a cluster of Asian restaurants. The store’s owner, Thuy Nguyen, told KNTV he doesn’t know who bought the winning ticket, but it’s likely someone he knows — most of his customers are his friends. “I feel good! I don’t even know, I can’t sleep tonight,” Nguyen told the station late Tuesday.

For selling a winning ticket in Tuesday’s drawing, Nguyen will get $1 million, California Lottery officials said.

“You can understand why that retailer was smiling last night,” state lottery spokeswoman Donna Cordova said Wednesday.

Reddick said the winner has 180 days to claim the prize in Georgia. The clock began ticking Tuesday.

Like the policies for store owners receiving bonus money, the number of days and anonymity for the winner varies by state, Otto said in an email to The Associated Press.

Otto, who is also the Virginia Lottery’s executive director, said $336 million in tickets were sold for Tuesday’s drawing — they had projected $319 million.

“Sales were a little better than we’d anticipated,” Otto said. “It was a fun run, it was our first holiday run for either of the big jackpot games.”

The jackpot started its ascent on Oct. 4. Twenty-two draws came and went without a winner, Otto said. She also said a billion worth of tickets were sold during the run, earning the places that offer Mega Millions — 43 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands — a total of $300 million.

The jackpot resets to $15 million for the next drawing, which is on Friday night.

“For us, the main thing we’d like to get across is the level of excitement we saw all across California,” he said. “At one point, we were selling about 25,000 tickets per minute. It’s been an amazing experience. It’s unbelievable.”

Mega Millions changed its rules in October to help increase the jackpots by lowering the odds of winning the top prize. That means the chances of winning the jackpot are now about 1 in 259 million. It used to be about 1 in 176 million, nearly the same odds of winning a Powerball jackpot.

But that hasn’t stopped aspiring multimillionaires from playing the game.

“Oh, I think there’s absolutely no way I am going to win this lottery,” said Tanya Joosten, 39, an educator at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who bought several tickets Tuesday. “But it’s hard for such a small amount of money to not take the chance.”

The Mega Millions revamp comes about two years after Powerball changed some of its game rules and increased the price of a ticket to $2 and added $1 million and $2 million secondary prizes. Mega Millions remains $1, and an extra $1 option has been expanded to allow up to $5 million as a secondary prize.

The changes in both games were aimed at creating bigger and faster growing jackpots. So far, it looks like it’s working.



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