The largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history - a whopping $656 million - will be shared by the buyers of three winning Mega Millions tickets in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland - but their identities remained a mystery, lottery officials said on Saturday.
A pre-dawn call alerted Denise Metzger, manager of a Motomart convenience store, to news from lottery officials that her store had sold a winning ticket in the tiny farming community of Red Bud in southern Illinois, with less than 4,000 residents, about 30 miles (48 km) southeast of St. Louis.
"I screamed, I woke my husband up," said Metzger, whose retail outlet will receive $500,000 for selling a winning ticket.
The Mega Millions lottery created a stir across the country, with people rushing to buy the $1 tickets in time for a shot at the humongous jackpot. In all, more than a billion tickets were sold.
At least two of the winners' tickets were "quick picks" - meaning all six numbers of the Mega Millions lottery computer selected the lucky numbers announced at the drawing Friday night in Atlanta: 2-4-23-38-46 and Mega Ball 23.
Lottery officials said winning tickets were purchased at a 7-Eleven store in Milford Mill, Maryland, near Baltimore, and the Motomart convenience store in Red Bud.
Winners could receive either a one-time payment of their share or take it in 26 annual installment payments.
The three tickets each were worth more than $213 million before taxes, if the payout was over 26 years. If taken in a lump sum, the windfall would be about $105.1 million, officials said.
– Carole Everett, Maryland Lottery
Each of the winners gets $105.1 million in cash after taxes roughly, but who cares about pennies at this point?
No matter who wins the jackpot, one certain winner is the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The tax-collecting agency subjects lottery winnings of more than $5,000 to a 25-percent federal withholding tax.