MUNFORD, Tenn.—Mystery winners in Tennessee, Florida and California will split an eye-popping $1.6 billion from the unprecedented Powerball jackpot that became a national fascination as grew since November.
The lucky trio did not immediately identify themselves Thursday, but they bought their tickets in Munford, a town of about 6,000 in Tennessee; the modest Los Angeles suburb of Chino Hills; and at a supermarket in Melbourne Beach, Florida, where residents of a nearby housing development were heard partying loudly after Wednesday night’s drawing.
The winners of the world-record jackpot overcame odds of 1 in 292.2 million to land on all the numbers: 4-8-19-27-34 and Powerball 10. They can let the jackpot be invested and thereby collect 30 annual payments totaling an estimated $533 million, or split $983.5 million in cash all at once.
Getting such a windfall is the start of a “new journey” and the winners should be prepared with lawyers, accountants and financial planners before they come forward, California Lottery spokesman Russ Lopez said Thursday. California gives its winners a year to contact lottery officials. In Florida, winners have just 180 days to claim their winnings—half that if they want the lump sum.
The huge draw also produced eight $2 million Power Play winners and 73 $1 million winners nationwide who matched all five white balls but missed the red Powerball, said Sally Lunsford of the Kansas Lottery.
The California ticket was sold at a 7-Eleven; the Florida ticket at a Publix grocery store. Tennessee officials did not immediately say which of the three Munford stores offering Powerball tickets produced the winner.
That store will get a $25,000 check; Florida’s store collects $100,000, and California lottery spokesman Alex Traverso told The Associated Press that a $1 million bonus will be shared between the Chino Hills store owner and the 7-Eleven company. The amounts that follow each state’s rules.
TV trucks from Memphis quickly arrived in Munford, where people marveled over the winning ticket and joked about what they would have done with the money.
Auto body shop worker Jerry Caudle said he was “freaking out” when he heard a winning ticket was sold in his town, but then saw that he matched only two numbers, for a prize of $14. He wore a wistful smile as he left the Munford Short Stop gas station and convenience store, which offers Tipton County’s “best chicken on a stick” for $3.69.
“It’s been tough,” Caudle said. “The hardest winter for me here in 17 years.”
The California store and its surrounding strip mall suddenly became a popular gathering spot in the rural suburb of 78,000, where cows still graze on hillsides. Hundreds of people crowded the store and spilled into its parking lot, cheering and mugging for the television cameras and chanting “Chino Hills! Chino Hills!”
Store owner Balbir Atwal worked as an electronics salesman after immigrating from India in 1981, and bought his first 7-Eleven franchise at the age of 27. Now he owns four. He said he has sold winning tickets before, but never like this one.
“Every time we say, oh, this is time,” Atwal said. “I was just joking, I said, this is the time someone’s going to hit it.”
Michael Fahim, 48, real estate broker from Chino Hills, said he bought 20 lottery tickets Wednesday night just up the street. “I’m happy it’s in Chino Hills. I think it put us on the map – all over the world,” he said, adding that his brother called from Australia overnight to learn if he won.
California Lottery director Hugo Lopez told the AP that ticket sales in California alone reached $179 million in this last draw, the most they’ve ever seen in a four-day period.
“You get a lot of new players with a large jackpot,” Lopez said. “Our goal is to have a lot of people play a little bit.”
Sales since November for this Powerball jackpot generated nearly $115 million for education in Florida, uses the lottery to provide 6 percent of the education budget,” Florida Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie said.
In Melbourne Beach, neighbors were gossiping that the winner might be someone in a housing development several miles from the Publix where loud partying could be heard after Wednesday night’s drawing, according to Lisa Londini, a professional caregiver who was shopping at the market Thursday.
“The winner could be as close as your neighbors!” she said, visibly excited. “I wish it was me!”
Ticket sales and payouts had risen steadily as weeks came and went without a jackpot winner since Nov. 4, when the amount was reset at $40 million. For Wednesday night’s drawing alone, Powerball sales totaled $1,270,206,274. In addition to three jackpot winners, more than 26 million other winning tickets will pay out total cash prizes of $273,869,373, Lunsford said.
Spain’s massively popular Christmas lottery, known as “El Gordo,” is ranked as the world’s richest, though it doles out millions of prizes rather than one large jackpot like the Powerball. El Gordo last month showered 2.2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) across the country.
Powerball tickets are sold in 44 states, as well as the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Many residents of the six that don’t participate crossed state lines to get their hands on tickets before the drawing, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association.