TOPEKA | — The only thing anyone may ever know about the record jackpot lottery winner in Kansas is that it’s a 6-foot tall shadowy figure made of poster board sporting a smiley face.
By BRAD COOPER
That’s because the winner’s name is: Anonymous.
Someone — lottery officials aren’t releasing any information about gender, age or hometown — claimed the $218.6 million Kansas Mega Millions jackpot at 11:45 a.m. Friday.
As Kansas law allows, the mystery winner chose to enjoy the winnings privately, leaving lottery officials to celebrate the auspicious occasion with horns, confetti, balloons, cake and punch in the company of a carboard cut-out.
“They obviously don’t need the publicity and they’re not used to the publicity,” said Dennis Wilson, the Kansas Lottery’s executive director. “They were still in awe they had won it. They’re like all of us. They think about the possibility of winning, but they never think that’s it’s going to happen to them.”
This much is known. The winner is looking forward to retirement.
The ticket was purchased at Casey’s General Store No. 2668 at 940 N. Main Street in Ottawa, which has a population of barely more than 6,000. The winner spent only $1 and let the computer pick a random number.
After taxes, he or she will take home $110.5 million — more than double the city of Ottawa’s budget.
The Kansas winner shared in a national $656 million Mega Millions jackpot that culminated last Friday, when the lucky numbers were drawn. The record amount set off a frenetic ticket buying spree nationwide.
Kansas sold $28.5 million worth of lottery tickets in March, a 52 percent spike over March 2011, when there was only a measly $312 million Mega Millions jackpot.
On Saturday, lottery officials announced that winning Mega Millions tickets were purchased in Illinois, Maryland and northeastern Kansas.
But the Kansas winner didn’t check the numbers until Monday, when they looked at the lottery’s web site.
“They checked it over 10 times to make sure they were reading it right and still had a hard time believing it,” Wilson said.
They called the lottery office in Topeka at 8:30 Friday morning. About two hours later, the winner arrived accompanied by a lawyer and two financial advisers. The paperwork was completed before noon, and the money will be transferred to the winner’s account electronically.
Meanwhile, the rural Illinois community of Red Bud is still waiting for the mystery winner of its share of the Mega Millions jackpot to step forward. And in Maryland, questions still surround a Baltimore woman who claimed to have the other winning ticket, but then said she couldn’t find it.
Back in Kansas, the state lottery handed out even more money Friday, a total of about $460,000 to 20 winners of other games.
But no one was paying much attention to them.
One winning couple quietly slipped into a conference room to claim a $100,000 instant-ticket prize. Security escorted the man and the woman out with barely anyone noticing.
Not even the cardboard cut-out with the smiley face.
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