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Things Mega Millions, Powerball winners should consider

A billion dollar grand prize is sparking dreams of riches across the US the day before another Mega Millions jackpot drawing. The jackpot swelled to $1.6 billion on Monday, while the sister Powerball lottery grew to at least $620 million. (Oct. 22)

Lottery players will have a chance at winning an estimated $1.6 billion jackpot in Tuesday night’s Mega Millions drawing and an estimated $620 million in Wednesday night’s Powerball jackpot. (Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP)

Seems like plenty of people are dreaming about how they would spend the Mega Millions or Powerball jackpots if the winning ticket is theirs.

The next Mega Millions drawing is 11 p.m. Tuesday. The jackpot is an eye-popping and historic $1.6 billion. The next Powerball drawing is Wednesday night around 10:59 p.m. That jackpot is $620 million.

While it’s fun thinking about the many ways to spend the riches from a lottery jackpot, there are other important considerations, according to lottery officials.

What do you do if you win? Can you remain anonymous? Should you rush to the nearest lottery office to claim your prize?

Can you remain anonymous?

The short answer is, it depends.

Ohio and Indiana are two of a handful of states that allow winners to keep their identity private. This is done by claiming the prize in a passive trust, with the assistance of an attorney, according to Marie Kilbane, Ohio Lottery spokeswoman.

Kentucky has no such law. There’s no requirement for a winner to do the publicity or a news conference, according to Kentucky Lottery spokesman Chip Polston. If a winner prefers anonymity, the lottery will issue a press release stating that. However, be forwarned. Kentucky Lottery records are open, meaning that anyone, including the media, can learn the winner’s name.

Polston said he’s experienced both and knows how each option plays out.

If the winner goes public, “good news” reporters come out for the story, and it remains in the news cycle for about 48 hours and is done, Polston said.

If the winner remains anonymous, the story switches to “somebody just won and they don’t want you to know who they are,” he said.

Within a couple of hours, the “bad news reporters” learn the winner’s name and are camped out at their home trying to obtain an interview. They talk to the neighbors, and they are at the courthouse looking for other public records or a possible mugshot, Polston said.

“I can understand why people don’t want to go public,” he said. In the long run, it’s better to go public and allow the lottery communications staff to help manage the story, Polston advised.

It is no secret that winning the lottery has become the new version of the American Dream. While the odds of winning are lower than the odds of being struck by lightning on a sunny day, it’s easy to see what is drawing so many people each week to buy lottery tickets. The Powerball lottery […] (Photo: Tim Boyle / Getty Images)

Claiming the prize

The first thing to know is you claim your prize in the state where the winning ticket was purchased, Polston said.

Next, take your time and consult with experts before claiming the jackpot, he said. Winners have 180 days to claim their prize.

“We tell people to take their time and come up with a plan,” Polston said. “Talk to a financial adviser. Talk to a tax attorney.”

About six years ago a couple from Georgetown, Kentucky, won the biggest jackpot ever sold in that state, a $127 million Powerball, he said. The couple who won took over a week to claim the prize.

Kilbane advised doing the same. If anyone wins the jackpot or any of the other large prize tiers, they are encouraged to take some time to talk to a financial planner and attorney before claiming the money, she said.

This will help winners to make the most of their windfall based on their priorities, personal situation and future plans, Kilbane said.

How are lottery sales?

Lottery sales are going “really, really well,” said Polston. For example, last week the Kentucky Lottery sold the equivalent of 11 weeks’ worth of tickets.

“The peak hour we had, which was 6 p.m. Friday before the drawing, over $600,000 worth of tickets were sold,” he said.

Ohio ticket sales are about 10 times the amount sold for a typical Mega Millions drawing, Kilbane said. On Oct. 2 when the jackpot was $367 million, the Ohio Lottery sold over $1.7 million in tickets, she said.

“Our finance staff is forecasting sales of $35 million for tonight’s drawing,” Kilbane said.

What are the odds?

By now, most people know the odds of winning the Mega Millions or Powerball are not great. The odds of winning the Mega Millions are 1 in 302,575,350. Odds of winning the Powerball are slightly better, 1 in 292,201,338.

While it's fun thinking about ways to spend the riches from a lottery jackpot, there are important considerations to keep in mind.

Oops! Errors on some Kentucky Lottery tickets misleading players to think they’ve won

Just kidding. You didn’t really win that lottery prize.

The Kentucky Lottery is saying that a vendor error has caused about 500 Tic Tac Cash game tickets to have erroneous images on them, leading players to believe they’ve won prizes when they actually lost or won a different prize.

In some cases, players might believe they’ve won tens of thousands of dollars, lottery spokesman Chip Polston said.

The $2 tickets are printed at a vending machine or terminal and work like a Scratch-off ticket, lottery officials said in an email Friday. Players know if they’ve won by matching symbols on the ticket. Polston says the game is similar to Tic-Tac-Toe, with players looking for matching symbols vertically, horizontally or diagonally and winning the amount designated for that line.

But after a software upgrade by vendor IGT on Sunday morning, tickets printed at vending machines contained erroneous images that were not part of the game.

The erroneous symbols included double exclamation marks and half a star with a single exclamation mark, lottery officials said. “As a result, some tickets appear to have the invalid images match, leading players to believe a variety of prizes have been won,” according to the email.

When scanned, the erroneous tickets do show the correct prize amount won. However, under state law, the lottery cannot pay out prizes arising from tickets “that are produced or issued in error.”

Sales of the tickets were halted Monday morning, and a software fix was made later that day, according to the lottery.

IGT, the vendor, has proposed a program for affected players. IGT spokeswoman Wendy Montgomery said players will be compensated on a varying basis depending on the ticket, once the ticket is verified.

Because of a software error, some Tic Tac Cash game tickets mislead players into believing they've erroneously won a prize, the Kentucky Lottery says.