Mega lottery winner comes forward

Last updated 16:48 08/12/2012

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US lottery officials say a married man in his 30s from a wealthy Phoenix suburb has claimed his half of the US$587.5 million Powerball jackpot, deciding to collect the winnings now and not next year because of the looming US fiscal cliff.

The man decided to remain anonymous after he bought $10 worth of tickets and kept the winning slip in the visor of his car overnight before realising he was a multimillionaire.

He gave $20 to the cashier of a Fountain Hills convenience store, and the clerk nudged him to spend the entire amount on tickets. He declined the offer.

After the man and his wife learned of their good fortune, the husband pulled together a team of financial advisers and decided to take all of his share this month to avoid potentially higher taxes in 2013, said Karen Bach, a lottery official.

"He did have concern with the uncertainty with the fiscal cliff in 2013," Bach said, referring to the federal fiscal situation that could result in higher income tax rates.

The man and his lawyer met with lottery officials on Friday, and he opted to take the cash option of US$192 million before taxes. Lottery officials said his wife owns half the prize because Arizona is a community property state.

"He and his wife couldn't believe it," Bach said. "They checked the numbers over and over again - absolutely shocked."

Bach said the man is smart and wants to take time to make a solid financial plan and set up a charitable entity to aid causes that he and his wife support. Lottery officials say the man told them he enjoys his job and has no immediate plans to quit.

Lottery officials wouldn't say what he did for a living.

The unidentified winner later issued a statement that said: "It is difficult to express just how thankful we are for this wonderful gift. We are extremely grateful and feel fortunate to now have an increased ability to support our charities and causes. Obviously, this has been incredibly overwhelming and we have always cherished our privacy."

The statement directed all inquiries to an Arizona law firm, which didn't immediately return a call after business hours Friday.

A mechanic and his wife, Mark and Cindy Hill, from Missouri, already have claimed their half of the multistate Powerball prize.

The jackpot was the second-largest in US history and set off a nationwide buying frenzy. At one point, tickets were selling at nearly 130,000 a minute.

Before the November 28 drawing, the jackpot had rolled over 16 consecutive times without any winners. In a Mega Millions drawing in March, three ticket buyers shared a US$656 million jackpot, the largest lottery payout of all time.

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Lottery officials said the Arizona couple moved from Pennsylvania a year ago. While in Pennsylvania, the couple regularly played the lottery but had done so only twice since moving to Arizona, Bach said.

After realising he had won, the man and his wife spent the weekend "trying to recover from the shock," Bach said.

- AP

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