US – Last Oct 23, a kind person at a rural crossroads convenience store let a fellow patron step ahead in the queue of folks buying lottery tickets. Lady Luck smiled down at that good-natured soul, for the next day, it was she or he who had become the luckiest person in US lottery history; an instant billionaire with US$1.54 billion (roughly S$2 billion) in jackpot money.
After the draw, it was revealed that the winning ticket that matched all six of the Mega Millions winning numbers was purchased in the state of South Carolina. Yet, no one came forward to claim the prize money — until a few days ago.
On Monday night, the South Carolina Education Lottery Commission released an update that the jackpot prize had finally been claimed. While not much is known about the identity of the winner — who wishes to stay anonymous, the organisation added that it was by mere coincidence that this person won as she or he had kindly allowed a fellow lottery patron to cut ahead of the queue.
The winner had had 180 days to claim the money, which meant the deadline was April 19. No one knows why there was a delay in claiming the jackpot.
Lump-Sum or Annuity?
Lottery winners have two options when it comes to claiming the jackpot: as one lump sum payment or as an annuity, which are smaller amounts paid over a stretch of 30 years to reach US$1.54 billion.
From a financial perspective, taking the lump sum amount is better than the annuity because the value of money changes over time. Even though the lump sum amount is lower than the actual prize amount, winners can maximize the cash on hand through wise investments that may yield bigger returns in the three decades to come.
And, this is exactly what the winner did by claiming the lump sum amount of US$877,784,124 (S$1.2 billion) (before state and federal taxes are deducted) – the highest lottery prize taken home by a single winner in history.
South Carolina noted that the state would receive US$61 million (S$82.7 million) in income taxes from the declared jackpot prize.
To remain anonymous, the winner has gotten help from Jason M. Kurland, a New York lawyer known as the “Lottery Lawyer”. Kurland is known for representing other high-profile winners.
He told The New York Times that for situations involving this amount of cash, the biggest challenge would be retaining personal relationships: “It’s natural there’s going to be a strain. It depends on how strong your relationships are before the lottery. If you’re really close with someone and they feel they deserve a gift, it’s really difficult. It’s one of the things winners are freaked out about when they come to me.”
Fortunately, South Carolina allows lottery winners to remain unidentified, unike other states which reveal winners’ identities.
“We respect the winner’s decision to remain anonymous, and we will honour the winner’s wishes,” said South Carolina lottery executive director Hogan Brown.
While hitting such a jackpot may seem like wonderful news to share with family and friends, global media company MashableAsia as well as past lottery winners believe otherwise. Lottery winners are at risk of danger and even death after going public.
Andrew Stoltmann, an Illinois attorney who has represented winners past lottery winners, explains that revealing lottery winners’ identities creates a harassment target on their backs that puts their safety at risk: “Revealing their identity is like throwing meat into a shark-infested ocean.”
Lottery lucky folks living in Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas, are therefore considered extra lucky because they are protected by law when they choose to stay anonymous.
So, South Carolina’s luckiest lottery billioinaire made a wise decision, both when buying the golden ticket and coming out of secrecy to claim the prize money.
The winner, who had had about a one in 302 million chance at hitting the jackpot, had held the $2 (S$2.71) winning ticket with the numbers 5, 28, 62, 65, 70; and the Mega Ball: 5. The ticket had been sold at KC Mart, a convenience store located at Simpsonville. The store owner, C.J. Patel, will receive $50,000 (S$67,842).
Meanwhile, in a more local setting, Singapore Pools has been busy with the back-to-back jackpot draws during the first two months of 2019.
Read about Toto lottery’s record-breaking jackpot prize to be won by a single ticket below: