SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. — Lottery officials say someone won the $1.537 billion Mega Millions jackpot.
Officials said a ticket purchased at the KC Mart #7 on Lee Vaughn Road in Simpsonville, South Carolina matches all six numbers in Tuesday night's drawing.
And it's possible that the world will never know the winner.
South Carolina is one of eight states - along with Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and Texas - where winners can remain anonymous. In the others, their identities will become public.
Lottery officials knew 30 minutes after the drawing that the winner was in South Carolina. Three hours after that, they knew that ticket was the only winning ticket in the drawing.
The prize is extraordinary by any measure, but particularly so for South Carolina, where it would be enough, if the winner was so generously inclined, to shower roughly $307 on each of the state's five million people. It's about as much as 20 percent of the $8 billion that state lawmakers have to spend each year.
An earlier Mega Millions estimate of $1.6 billion would have been a world record for lotteries, but actual sales came in below the $1.586 billion Powerball jackpot prize shared by winners in California, Florida and Tennessee in January of 2016.
"The final total was less than the $1.6 billion estimate," confirmed Carol Gentry, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Lottery, which leads a consortium of state lotteries participating in the Mega Millions jackpot.
"Estimates are based on historical patterns," she explained Wednesday morning in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "The jackpot's been rolling since it was hit in July in California, but there are few precedents for a jackpot of this size. Typically, about 70 percent of sales occur on the drawing day, so forecasting precise numbers in advance can be difficult. That's why we always use the term estimate."
The ticket is worth about $877.8 million in a lump-sum cash payment, which most winners choose to take, rather than collect the full amount in annual payments over three decades.
The winning numbers were 5, 28, 62, 65, 70 and Mega Ball 5. The lucky player overcame miserable odds: The chance of matching all six numbers and winning the top prize is 1 in 302.5 million.
Channel 9 learned that 36 second prize tickets were sold worth $1 million dollars and two of those winners are from North Carolina.
One of the million dollar tickets was sold at the Zoom Express on Skyway Drive in Monroe.
“The moment we’ve been waiting for finally arrived, and we couldn’t be more excited,” said Gordon Medenica, Lead Director of the Mega Millions Group and Director of Maryland Lottery and Gaming. “This is truly a historic occasion. We’re so happy for the winner, and we know the South Carolina Education Lottery can’t wait to meet the lucky ticket holder.”
Mega Millions is played in 44 states as well as Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Lottery officials and financial managers encourage people to take time to map out a strategy for investing their hundreds of millions of dollars, and winners must deal with security concerns befitting someone who suddenly is immensely wealthy.
The Mega Millions jackpot grew so large because it had been nearly three months since a player had matched all six numbers and won the top prize. The last time that happened was July 24, when 11 co-workers from California won a $543 million prize.
Although Tuesday's jackpot was extraordinarily large, it's no fluke. It reflects a trend toward ever-growing lottery prizes due to changes in the game that worsened the odds with hopes that bigger jackpots would result in better sales.
Officials with the Powerball game were the first to make that move in October 2015 when changing the odds of winning the jackpot from 1 in 175 million to 1 in 292.2 million. Mega Millions followed suit in October 2017, resulting in the odds worsening from 1 in 259 million to 1 in 302.5 million.
While most attention has been on the Mega Millions game, Powerball also has been soaring. The estimated prize for Powerball's annuity option in Wednesday night's drawing is $620 million, with a cash prize of $354.3 million.
Lottery officials said the Mega Millions winner should sign the back of the ticket, put it in a safe location, seek financial or legal advice from a trusted source and call the Lottery. The winner has 180 days to come forward to claim the ticket.
For the next drawing on Friday, Oct. 26, the jackpot resets to its starting value of $40 million.
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