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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kansas Mega Millions winner will stay anonymous

By JOHN HANNA
Associated Press

A Kansas resident came forward Friday to claim a share of a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot, but state lottery officials wouldn’t identify the winner because that person wanted to remain anonymous.

Dennis Wilson, the Kansas Lottery’s executive director, said the winner arrived Friday morning at the lottery’s Topeka headquarters with an attorney and two financial advisers. Wilson declined to give even the winner’s age or gender and said lottery officials did not ask for personal financial information. But he said the ticket was held by only one person.

The holder of the ticket is the state’s biggest jackpot winner. The ticket was purchased at one of three Casey’s General Stores in Ottawa, about 40 miles southeast of Topeka.

Winning tickets were also sold in Illinois and Maryland, with each of the three shares worth more than $218 million. Wilson said the Kansas winner took a single, cash payment of nearly $158 million, leaving that person with $110.5 million after taxes.

The winner claimed the share about a week after the drawing. Kansas law gives a winner up to a year to come forward and allows that person to remain anonymous. Wilson said the winner of the jackpot chose that option “for the obvious reasons that most of us would consider.”

“They obviously don’t need the publicity,” he said. “They’re not used to the publicity of where they’re from, where they live.”

The largest previous jackpot for Kansas was almost $97 million in the multistate Powerball game. It was won in November 2009 by Donald Damon, a 70-year-old retired truck driver from Great Bend, who claimed it within two days of the drawing.

Wilson said the winner of the state’s record prize needs time to digest his or her good fortune.

“They were still, you know, just in awe that they had won it,” he said. “They’re like all of us. They think about the possibilities of winning, but they never think it’s going to happen to them.”

Wilson said the winner plays various lottery games regularly but does not spend much money. He said the person spent $1 on Mega Millions, opting for a computer-generated “quick pick.” The winning numbers were 2-4-23-38-46, with a Mega Ball of 23.

He said the holder of the winning ticket didn’t know it until Monday, checking online. He said the winner didn’t disclose plans for the money, although he said the person was looking forward to retirement.

“As you can imagine, it’s a lot of money to be dropped in your lap in just a short period of time,” Wilson said.

Lottery employees blew party horns at the news conference and served cake and punch afterward. Deputy Executive Director Neysa Thomas presented an oversized replica of a check to a poster-sized representation of an anonymous human figure with a smiling face.

The convenience store selling the ticket will receive a $10,000 prize. Robert Pizzini, district manager for the Casey’s chain, was on hand to accept an oversized replica of a check but said he doesn’t know how the money will be distributed.

The state benefits, too. Lottery officials estimate that it will receive nearly $8 million in income taxes from the big prize, as well as a $250,000 prize and two $10,000 prizes won by Kansans in the drawing.

Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, said he’d prefer to set aside the taxes generated by the lottery jackpot for future relief for communities hit by natural disasters – seeing it as appropriate to use one stroke of unexpected good luck to offset unexpected bad luck.

But, he acknowledged, “There are innumerable places where that money could be effectively used.”

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