An eye-popping and unprecedented Powerball jackpot of $1.6 billion US will be split three ways by mystery winners in Florida, Tennessee and California.
- Questions about legitimacy of online ticket brokers not stopping Canadians
- Stephen Colbert warns 'moose-munching iceholes' against buying Powerball tickets
- Fox News tells viewers to buy Powerball players 'as many tickets as you can afford'
The lucky trio did not immediately identify themselves Thursday, but they bought their tickets in Munford, a town of about 6,000 in Tennessee; the modest Los Angeles suburb of Chino Hills; and at supermarket in Melbourne Beach, Fla., where residents of a nearby housing development were heard partying loudly after Wednesday night's drawing.
The winners of the world-record jackpot overcame odds of 1 in 292.2 million to land on all the numbers drawn Wednesday night: 4-8-19-27-34 and Powerball 10.
They can let the jackpot be invested and collect 30 annual payments totalling an estimated $533 million US, or split $983.5 million US in cash all at once.
The huge draw also produced eight $2-million US winners and 73 $1 -million US winners nationwide, said Sally Lunsford of the Kansas Lottery.
Stores that sold winning tickets cash in
The California ticket was sold at a 7-Eleven in Chino Hills, lottery spokesman Alex Traverso told The Associated Press.
Russ Lopez, another California Lottery spokesman, presented a symbolic cheque to store owner Balbir Atwal. Atwal will split $1 million US with 7-Eleven.
Atwal, who came to the U.S. from India in 1981, owns four 7-Elevens. He said he has sold winning tickets before, but never like this one.
"I was just joking, I said, 'this is the time someone's going to hit it,'" laughed Atwal. He said he would share his part of the store's bonus with employees and family, and give some to charity.
A family-owned grocery store in a small Tennessee town sold one of the tickets. Rebecca Hargrove, president of the Tennessee Lottery Corp., presented a $25,000 cheque to Dana Naifeh, owner of Naifeh's grocery store in Munford.
The lottery also gave Naifeh's a fake large purple cheque with yellow stars on it.
"I need to digest this," said Naifeh, who plans to share some of her modest bounty with store employees.
The winning Florida ticket was sold at a Publix grocery store, which will collect $100,000 US.
Getting such a windfall is the start of a "new journey" and the winners should be prepared with lawyers, accountants and financial planners before they come forward, Lopez said.
But they shouldn't wait too long: California gives its winners a year to contact lottery officials before the money automatically goes to schools. Winners in Tennessee and Florida must claim their winnings within 180 days.
Hundreds gather at stores
At a McDonald's in Munford, Tenn., residents marvelled about the winning ticket over coffee and biscuits, some joking about what they would have done with the money.
Auto body shop worker Jerry Caudle said he was "freaking out" when he heard a winning ticket was sold in his town, but then saw that he matched only two numbers for a prize of $14. He wore a wistful smile as he left the Munford Short Stop gas station and convenience store, which offers Tipton County's "best chicken on a stick" for $3.69.
"It's been tough," he said. "The hardest winter for me here in 17 years."
The California store and its surrounding strip mall suddenly became a popular gathering spot in the usually quiet suburb of 75,000. Hundreds of people, from news crews to gawkers, crowded the store and spilled into its parking lot, cheering and mugging for the cameras and chanting "Chino Hills! Chino Hills!"
"It's history. We're all so excited for our city," Rita Talwar, 52, who has lived in Chino Hills for 30 years, told the local San Bernardino Sun.
Some took selfies with the store clerk on duty, who became an instant celebrity and may well have been the man who sold the ticket.
"I'm very proud that the ticket was sold here," the clerk, M. Faroqui, told the Sun. "I'm very happy. This is very exciting."
In Melbourne Beach, neighbours were gossiping that the winner might be someone in a housing development several miles from the Publix, as loud partying could be heard after Wednesday night's drawing, according to Lisa Londini, a professional caregiver who was shopping at the market Thursday.
"The winner could be as close as your neighbours!" she said, visibly excited. "I wish it was me!"
The estimated jackpot amounts had risen steadily since Nov. 4, when it was reset at $40 million US. Texas Lottery executive director Gary Grief has said this Powerball offered "absolutely" the world's biggest jackpot.
Not that there aren't large jackpots elsewhere. Spain's massively popular Christmas lottery, known as "El Gordo," is ranked as the world's richest, though it doles out millions of prizes rather than one large jackpot like the Powerball. El Gordo last month showered 2.2 billion euros ($2.4 billion US) across the country.
Powerball tickets are sold in 44 states, as well as the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Canadians had flocked to the U.S. to buy Powerball lottery tickets ahead of the big draw, as had residents in the six states that don't participate.