by johnny clark associated press
Two lucky winning tickets were sold in Tuesday's near-record $636 million Mega Millions drawing: one at a tiny newsstand in Atlanta, and the other more than 2,000 miles away in California.
The lucky Georgia ticket was sold at a Gateway Newsstand in Atlanta's affluent Buckhead area, Mega Millions Executive Director Paula Otto said.
Newsstand owner Young Soolee grinned as she arrived Wednesday morning at the shop off the lobby of the Alliance Center office building. The newsstand — a small, long shop with one register that can hold perhaps 10 people at a time — is frequented by workers at the office building, which sits across the street from an upscale mall.
"I'm so excited and so happy now," Soolee said. "I love my store and the customer now."
Some media outlets reported that Soolee would receive money as the owner of the store that sold a winning ticket. But Georgia Lottery spokeswoman Tandi Reddick said Wednesday that's not the case. She said Soolee won't get any bonus beyond the 6 percent commission all retail outlets received based on lottery sales.
"They do have the distinction of being known as the lucky store now, and that's always great news for them," Reddick said.
Reddick said also the winner has 180 days to claim the prize. The clock began ticking Tuesday. Lottery officials in Georgia will release basic information about the winner, including name and city of residence. Like the policies for store owners receiving bonus money, the number of days and anonymity for the winner varies by state, Paula Otto, Mega Millions lead director said in an email.
Buckhead is a financial center of Atlanta and one of its largest neighborhoods, a vast northern area known for upscale shopping centers such as Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza, both a short walk from the store that sold the winning ticket. The Alliance Center is home to a variety of offices — lawyers and financial services professionals, even the Brazilian Consulate General.
The California ticket was sold at Jennifer's Gift Shop, which sits along San Jose's tree-lined Tully Road, amid a cluster of Asian restaurants. The store's owner, Thuy Nguyen, told KNTV he doesn't know who the bought the winning ticket, but it's likely someone he knows — most of his customers are his friends. "I feel good! I don't even know, I can't sleep tonight," Nguyen told the station.
The winning numbers in the drawing were: 8, 14, 17, 20, 39; Mega Ball: 7.
The jackpot was the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history. It started its ascent Oct. 4. Twenty-two draws came and went without winners, Otto said.
Otto said $336 million in tickets were sold for Tuesday's drawing — they had projected $319 million.
"Sales were a little better than we'd anticipated," Otto said. "It was a fun run; it was our first holiday run for either of the big jackpot games."
The winners can choose to be paid over time or in a cash lump sum, Otto said. Based on the $636 million figure, the winners would receive $318 million each over time or $170 million each in cash.
Mega Millions changed its rules in October to help increase the jackpots by lowering the odds of winning the top prize. That means the chances of winning the jackpot are now about 1 in 259 million. It used to be about 1 in 176 million, nearly the same odds of winning a Powerball jackpot.
Associated Press writer Jeff Martin contributed to this report.