Sun, Dec 09, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Lottery winner to collect cash amid fiscal worries

AP, PHOENIX, ARIZONA

The uncertainty posed by the looming US “fiscal cliff” is having an impact on the multimillion-dollar Powerball lottery: A man who claimed half of the record US$587.5 million jackpot is collecting his winnings now rather than wait until next year.

Lottery officials announced on Friday that a married man in his 30s from a wealthy Phoenix suburb has claimed his half of the US$587.5 million Powerball jackpot, deciding to collect the winnings now and not next year because of the looming US fiscal cliff.

The man decided to remain anonymous after he bought US$10 worth of tickets and kept the winning slip in the visor of his car overnight before realizing he was a multi-millionaire.

He gave US$20 to the cashier of a Fountain Hills convenience store, and the clerk nudged him to spend the entire amount on tickets. He declined the offer.

After the man and his wife learned of their good fortune, the husband pulled together a team of financial advisers and decided to take all of his share this month to avoid potentially higher taxes next year, said Karen Bach, a lottery official.

“He did have concern with the uncertainty with the fiscal cliff in 2013,” Bach said, referring to the federal fiscal situation that could result in higher income tax rates.

The man and his lawyer met with lottery officials on Friday, and he opted to take the cash option of US$192 million before taxes. Lottery officials said his wife owns half the prize because Arizona is a community property state.

“He and his wife couldn’t believe it,” Bach said. “They checked the numbers over and over again — absolutely shocked.”

Bach said the man is smart and wants to take time to make a solid financial plan and set up a charitable entity to aid causes that he and his wife support. Lottery officials say the man told them he enjoys his job and has no immediate plans to quit.

Lottery officials would not say what he did for a living.

The unidentified winner later issued a statement that said: “It is difficult to express just how thankful we are for this wonderful gift. We are extremely grateful and feel fortunate to now have an increased ability to support our charities and causes. Obviously, this has been incredibly overwhelming and we have always cherished our privacy.”

The statement directed all inquiries to an Arizona law firm, which did not immediately return a call after business hours on Friday.

A mechanic and his wife, Mark and Cindy Hill, of Dearborn, Missouri, already have claimed their half of the multi-state Powerball prize.

The jackpot was the second-largest in US history and set off a nationwide buying frenzy. At one point, tickets were selling at nearly 130,000 a minute.

Before the Nov. 28 drawing, the jackpot had rolled over 16 consecutive times without any winners. In a Mega Millions drawing in March, three ticket buyers shared a US$656 million jackpot, the largest lottery payout of all time.

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