Three winners in record $656 million U.S. lottery

ATLANTA Sat Mar 31, 2012 10:38pm IST

1 of 4. A storefront sign displays the jackpot total of Friday's Mega Millions lottery in Hoboken, New Jersey, March 30, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Hershorn

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ATLANTA (Reuters) - Three winners who could share a $656 million windfall from the largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history bought their lucky tickets at a 7-Eleven store in Maryland, a Motomart convenience story in Illinois and somewhere in northeast Kansas, lottery officials said on Saturday.

Lottery officials said the 7-Eleven store was in Milford Mill, Maryland, near Baltimore, and the Motomart convenience store in the southern Illinois farming town of Red Bud, Illinois. Kansas lottery officials were not releasing the exact location where the ticket was sold except to say that it was in the most populated northeast part of the state.

"Each of the winners gets $105.1 million in cash after taxes roughly, but who cares about pennies at this point?" said Carole Everett, spokeswoman for the Maryland Lottery.

The winners whose tickets had all six numbers of the Mega Millions lottery drawn on Friday night will split the jackpot, the biggest in U.S. history, which rose to $656 million after all sales were tallied, lottery officials said.

The winning numbers announced at the drawing in Atlanta were 2-4-23-38-46 and Mega Ball 23. Winners could receive either a one-time payment of their share or take it in 26 annual installment payments.

A pre-dawn call alerted store manager Denise Metzger to news from lottery officials that a winning ticket was sold at her Motomart in the tiny farming community of Red Bud, with less than 4,000 residents, about 30 miles southeast of St. Louis.

"I screamed, I woke my husband up," said Metzger.

Residents swarmed the store within hours of the announcement to check their tickets, although no winner has yet emerged, she said.

"I think everyone in town has been here already," she joked.

Though the winner may want to remain anonymous, in Illinois the state is required to eventually list his or her identity in public records.

The winning Maryland ticket was a single quick pick ticket, in which numbers are automatically selected, sold at about 7:15 p.m. on Friday at the 7-Eleven franchise in Milford Mill in the Baltimore area, Everett said.

"They are shocked they are getting the $100,000 bonus," Everett said of the family that has owned the franchise for 10 years after learning of the reward that goes to the sellers of winning tickets.

In addition to the three jackpot winners, there were three tickets that matched the Mega Ball number to win $1 million each and 158 tickets that picked five of the six chosen numbers to win $250,000 each, said Kelly Cripe, spokeswoman for the Texas Lottery, which oversaw the Mega Millions game.

There had been a tremendous amount of excitement ahead of the drawing, with over one billion tickets sold, lottery officials said.

The previous largest Mega Millions jackpot was $390 million in 2007, which was split between two ticket holders in Georgia and New Jersey.

About half the lottery money goes back to ticket holders in the form of winnings, 35 percent to state governments and 15 percent to retailer commissions and lottery operating expenses.

No matter who won the jackpot, one certain winner is the U.S Internal Revenue Service. The tax-collecting agency subjects lottery winnings of more than $5,000 to a 25-percent federal withholding tax.

(Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Barbara Goldberg in New York, Teresa Carson in Portland, Keith Coffman in Denver and Laura Zuckerman in Idaho; Writing by Philip Barbara, Editing by Anthony Boadle, Sandra Maler and Greg McCune)

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