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Lucky! Store owner gets million dollar payout

12:00 PM, Dec 18, 2013   |    comments
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It wasn't mega, but he's a millionaire just the same.

The owner of a gift shop in California - he bought the place only four months ago - gets $1 million for selling one of two known winning tickets in the $636 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot.

The shop owner, Thuy Nguyen, got the call from state lottery officials late Tuesday night and rushed to the store, Jenny's Gift Shop in San Jose. He said he was so excited he couldn't sleep.

"I feel good! I feel good! Come to my store!" he told NBC Bay Area. "I'm a lucky person."

He said he wasn't sure who hit the lucky numbers - 8, 14, 17, 20, 39 and Mega Ball 7 - but figures he probably knows them: "Mostly my customer here is my friend."

Neither of the big winners had come forward early Wednesday. The other winning ticket was sold at a newsstand at a high-rise office complex in an upscale section of Atlanta, raising the possibility that that ticket was from an office pool.

In California, the seller of a winning ticket gets a bonus equal to one-half of 1 percent of the payout, up to $1 million, said Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the state lottery. It's a different story in Georgia, where there is no bonus for retailers, said Tandi Reddick, a Georgia lottery spokeswoman.

The owner of the Atlanta newsstand was Young Soolee, who grinned as she showed up for work Wednesday morning.

"I'm so excited and so happy now," she told The Associated Press. "I love my store and the customer now."

By rule, in both California and Georgia, the winners will be identified publicly once they claim their prize. Some states allow lottery winners to remain anonymous.

Whoever nailed the numbers beat odds of about 259 million to 1. The jackpot was the second-largest in American history, trailing only a $656 million draw last year, and could have approached $1 billion if no one had won.

In Nipton, Calif., so many people lined up to buy a ticket that the line stretched into the next state over, Nevada - because it's one of seven states that don't offer Mega Millions.

The $636 million, before taxes, is on the table only if a winner or winners are willing to spread the payments out over 30 years. If it's taken all at once, it's worth $341 million, or about $170 million split two ways.

The Mega Millions jackpot started growing Oct. 4. There were 22 drawings without winners before Tuesday night, Paula Otto, the game's executive director, told the AP.

Otto said that $336 million in tickets were sold for the Tuesday drawing, beating lottery officials' expectation of $319 million.

"It was a fun run," she said. "It was our first holiday run for either of the big jackpot games."

NBC News

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