RICHMOND, FEB. 11 -- Amin Arsala, of Falls Church, bought a Virginia lottery ticket last month and promptly forgot about it.
When family members each gave him a dollar Sunday and sent him off on a beer run during a basketball game, going to the store reminded him of the ticket. He asked a clerk for the winning number from the Jan. 30 drawing. Arsala thought it was the number on his ticket, so he sprang for the beer himself.
And when he got home to the ticket, he confirmed it: He was the winner of a $10.9 million jackpot.
A 30-year-old bachelor who immigrated from Afghanistan eight years ago, Arsala was an unknowing millionaire for almost two weeks. It turns out the drawing that made him a winner was held just minutes after he bought the ticket at an Arlington grocery store.
"I hadn't bothered to check my ticket," Arsala said at a news conference at the state lottery headquarters here today. "Everything turned out fine."
Family members agreed. Arsala's brother and sister, as well as several cousins, were planning a victory blowout tonight back in Falls Church, and said they would once again let Arsala pick up the tab.
"I'm going to enjoy it," Arsala said of his winnings, the first $545,000 of which he picked up today. He'll get annual payments of $549,000 -- $417,000 after state and federal taxes -- for the next 19 years.
Arsala said he'll continue with his engineering classes at Northern Virginia Community College -- "Yeah, why not?" -- but he may not be long for his job as a maintenance man at a Rosslyn hotel.
"I haven't decided yet," Arsala said when asked if he would quit work.
If it seems like there has been a run of big lottery winners lately, that's because there has been.
Just a month ago, Russell J. Swimley, of the Winchester area, became the largest individual winner of the Virginia lottery ever after hitting a $22.2 million bonanza.
And five weeks before that, James Shaffer, a Loudoun County telephone repairman, won a then-record $16 million.
"It's just luck -- good luck for the players and good luck for us," Lottery Director Kenneth W. Thorson said of the spate of big prizes.
It's good luck for Virginia's state coffers because lottery playing goes way up whenever a big prize is to be awarded. Lottery drawings ordinarily produce about $4.5 million in ticket sales, Thorson said, but the state sold about $12 million in the week of Swimley's jackpot.
The chances of winning Virginia's lottery are one in 7 million.
Although many officials were wary of the lottery before it was started two years ago, the state has become dependent on the large profits it produces.
The lottery is projected to contribute more than $250 million to the state budget this fiscal year. Some state legislators want to increase that amount by reducing prizes from 50 percent of all lottery proceeds to 45 percent.