A small town in South Carolina was overjoyed in October after learning that a Mega Millions ticket worth $1.5 billion had been sold from a local convenience store.
Janice Curtis, the mayor of Simpsonville, S.C., said then that the ticket could put the town “on the map.”
The owner of KC Mart #7, where the ticket was purchased, added that it was “good for the community.”
As the year draws to a close, however, that excitement is slowly transforming into anxiety. As of late last week, the winner of the largest single payout in U.S. history still hasn’t claimed the prize, The State newspaper reported, and it’s not clear whether that will happen.
“This is unusual, considering that it’s $1.5 billion,” Holli Armstrong, a spokeswoman for the state lottery, told The State.
The winning numbers were announced Oct. 23, and the owner of the ticket has 180 days — or until late April — to collect the prize. If the ticket is not redeemed, according to the Mega Millions website, “each participating state in the Mega Millions game will get back all the money that state contributed to the unclaimed jackpot.”
The 44 states that participate in Mega Millions are then able to appropriate that money for a variety of purposes.
It’s impossible to know why the winner hasn’t come forward yet. It could be a strategic decision. Maybe the ticket is lost. The winner could be anxious about the life-changing amount of money he or she would receive.
The Washington Post has previously reported on people who’ve squandered their winnings because of poor management. An attorney told The Post’s Amy B Wang that it’s important to maintain as much privacy as possible.
Hiring a financial adviser and a good accountant are also paramount to successfully managing the sudden influx of cash. If the money is mishandled, what may seem like a miracle can morph into misery.
There are myriad self-inflicted problems that can befall a person who suddenly comes into great wealth. One bought a water park, for example. Several others have gambled their winnings away, including a two-time lottery winner who ended up living in a trailer.
Billie Bob Harrell Jr., who won $31 million in 1997, told his financial adviser shortly before his suicide that “winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
Earlier this year, a $560 million Powerball winner in New Hampshire asked a judge to let her remain anonymous before she collected her jackpot to avoid being outed as a millionaire. But state law requires disclosure of the winner’s name.
“She wishes to continue this work and the freedom to walk into a grocery store or attend public events without being known or targeted as the winner of a half-billion dollars,” her attorney wrote in court documents.
South Carolina is one of a handful of states that allow lottery winners to remain anonymous, so even if the winner comes forward, we may never learn their identity.
The odds of winning the jackpot were one in 302,575,350.
For those still holding out hope: The winning numbers were 5-28-62-65-70, with a Mega Ball number of 5.