Dec 31, 2003, 7:46 am
The Ohio Lottery finally has a top-prize Mega Millions winner. Now the wait has begun to find out who will claim the biggest lottery prize ever in the state.
One ticket sold in Ohio won a multistate Mega Millions lottery jackpot worth $155 million, lottery officials said today.
The ticket for Tuesday's drawing, sold at a convenience store in South Euclid, a Cleveland suburb, was the only one to match all five numbers and the Mega Ball number, said Mardele Cohen, spokeswoman for the Ohio Lottery.
The buyer of the $155 million ticket opted to ask for the immediate cash payout, $90 million before taxes, rather than getting the full amount over 26 years, Cohen said. It is the biggest lottery prize ever in Ohio, which joined the Mega Millions lottery in 2002.
Lottery officials were waiting for the winner to come forward.
Jagdish Shah, owner of Quick Shop Food Mart, where the ticket was sold, learned about the prize when he arrived to open about 7 a.m. today and his parking lot was full of reporters and television station trucks.
"I saw that, and I was scared. I thought something happened," Shah said. He wins $100,000 and a cruise for selling the ticket, Cohen said.
In addition to the grand prize winner, 27 players matched all five numbers but not the Mega Ball number. They will receive second prizes of $175,000 each.
Another 104 players matched four numbers, plus the Mega Ball number -- good for third prizes of $5,000 each.
Mega Millions is played in Georgia, Texas, Virginia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Washington state.
The winning numbers from Tuesday night's drawing were 12, 18, 21, 32 and 46. The Mega Ball number was 49.
With the Mega Millions jackpot up that high before Tuesday night's drawing, many people were catching lottery fever.
"I keep thinking about what I could do with all that money. Of course I would donate some to charity, like to children's causes and the homeless," said Helen Corrigan, 58, just after buying $20 worth of tickets from the NYC Smoke Shop on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. "And I would get a thing or two for myself. Boy if I hit it big, the whole family will benefit."
At several Manhattan outlets where Mega Millions tickets are sold, store owners said they were benefitting from increased sales.
"I had one man buy $300 worth of tickets. Others have spent $40 to $60," said Jamal Mubarez, manager of Port Deli and Candy at 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue. "Business has been very steady. We like it when the jackpots are big."
Big, it is, but not a record. The largest jackpot ever won by a single ticket was the Christmas Day, 2002, Powerball worth $314.9 million. Still, $155 million, which people in 11 states can buy a chance at, isn't bad.
John Belitsis, a chef from midtown, is sure he has the winning numbers somewhere in the $400 worth of tickets he has purchased over the past couple of days.
"I'll win for sure. I used quick picks and also played my father's and mother's birthday. When I win, it will really be a happy new year," he said.
Tony Walker, visiting New York from Laguna Beach, Calif., was a bit more philosophical.
"I play, but I don't have much chance of winning," said Walker, a retiree who said he plays weekly when he is at home.
"But then I think there is always a chance -- No ticket, no chance," he said before buying $3 worth of tickets for the Mega Millions jackpot and $5 worth of tickets for tonight's Lotto drawing. "A win would start the year right."
The biggest single-ticket winner in the world is Jack Whittaker Jr. of West Virginia. He won a $314.9 million jackpot in December 2002 in the Powerball, the other big multistate lottery, which is played in 24 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
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