Jenny’s Gift Shop owner Thuy Nguyen (right) accepts a $1 million check from California lottery sales representative Mona Sanders in San Jose, California, Wednesday. (AP-Yonhap News)
ATLANTA (AP) ― Two lucky winning tickets have been sold in the near-record $636 million U.S. Mega Millions drawing: one at a tiny newsstand in Atlanta, and the other at a gift shop in California.
A Georgia woman, Ira Curry, of Stone Mountain, bought just one ticket and used family birthdays and lucky No. 7 to choose her numbers in the second-largest jackpot in U.S. history, lottery officials said.
“She has not decided how she’ll spend those winnings,” Georgia Lottery chief executive Debbie Alford said at a news conference, which Curry did not attend.
California gives the winner a year to come forward, but one winner in that state is already known: Thuy Nguyen, who owns Jennifer’s Gift Shop in San Jose, California.
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.
But his counterparts in Georgia ― Young Soo Lee and Young Lee, who own a Gateway Newsstand at an office building in upscale northern Atlanta ― get no bonus beyond the usual 6 percent commission on lottery sales, Georgia lottery officials said.
Lee 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.
Policies on store bonuses ― along with those on how long a winner has to claim a prize and whether their name goes public ― vary by state, according to an email from Paula Otto, Mega Millions lead director. In both Georgia and California, winners’ names are released.
Nguyen told KNTV he doesn’t know who the bought the winning ticket at his store, which sits along San Jose’s tree-lined Tully Road, amid a cluster of Asian restaurants. 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,” Nguyen told the station.
The Atlanta store is in Buckhead, a financial center of Atlanta and one of its largest neighborhoods, a vast northern area known for upscale shopping centers.
Young Soo Lee grinned as she arrived Wednesday morning at the shop off the lobby of the Alliance Center office building, home to a variety of offices ― lawyers and financial services professionals, even the Brazilian Consulate General.
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 so happy now,” Soo Lee said. “I love my store and the customer now.”
The winning numbers were: 8, 14, 17, 20, 39; Mega Ball: 7.
The jackpot was the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history. It started its ascent Oct. 4. Twenty-two draws came and went without winners, Otto said.
Otto said $336 million in tickets were sold for Tuesday’s drawing ― they had projected $319 million.
The winners can choose to be paid over time or in a cash lump sum, Otto said. Based on the $636 million figure, the winners would receive $318 million each over time or $170 million each in cash.
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.