Jittery Tennessee couple claim winning ticket for US Powerball jackpot: NBC

Balbir Atwal, owner of the California 7-Eleven that sold one of the 3 Powerball winning tickets on Jan 14, 2016.
Balbir Atwal, owner of the California 7-Eleven that sold one of the 3 Powerball winning tickets on Jan 14, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Tennessee couple came forward on Friday (Jan 15) with one of the three winning tickets for this week's record US Powerball lottery jackpot, appearing on NBC's "Today" programme.

The pair, Lisa and John Robinson from Munford, Tennessee, appeared on the television show to reveal that they held a winning ticket to claim their share of the US$1.6 billion Powerball prize.

NBC said the ticket had not yet been officially verified, but the couple said they planned to bring it to lottery officials immediately after the show.

The Robinsons said they had reached out to NBC on the advice of their lawyer, Joe Townsend.

"The American public wants to hear from them," Townsend said. Although the couple wants to return to their private lives afterward, "they want to ... let the public know that they're the winners."

John Robinson said that although he did not feel well, he bought the ticket at a local grocery store at his wife's request on Wednesday night, just hours before the drawing.

He said they were excited about their winnings but were "a little scared" about their future.

"Now I'll be nervous because everybody knows," he said.

His wife said they had not had any time to think about what they would do with their share of the jackpot prize but that she planned to return to work on Monday.

"We were up all night," she told NBC. "We didn't get enough sleep."

Holders of the Wednesday night drawings' two other winning tickets, which were sold in California and Florida, have not yet come forward.

Each of the winning tickets is worth US$528.8 million to the holders, lottery officials said in California, one of 44 states plus Washington, D.C., and two US territories that sold millions of Powerball tickets.

The winning numbers of 08 27 34 04 19 and Powerball 10, picked in a drawing on Wednesday night, appeared on tickets sold in three stores: a 7-Eleven convenience store in Chino Hills, California, a Publix supermarket in Melbourne Beach, Florida and Naifeh’s Food Mart in Munford, Tennessee.

The jackpot winners overcame odds of 1 in 292 million.

Los Angeles TV station KABC backed away from a story it reported that a registered nurse in Pomona, California, was one of the jackpot winners after the woman’s daughter said her mother was not the winner.

At a media conference in front of the California 7-Eleven, lottery officials presented a symbolic check for US$1 million to the owner of the franchise, Balbir Atwal, for selling a jackpot winning ticket. He said he would give some of the bonus money to charity and share some of it with his friends and family.

With each state setting its own lottery rules, the Tennessee retailer, located in a Memphis suburb, received US$25,000 and the Florida retailer, located in a tiny coastal town, will get US$100,000 at an undetermined date, lottery officials said.

The announcement of the winners came after the previous 19 drawings produced no jackpot winners. With the grand prize rolling over each time, the bounty soared to a record US$1.586 billion, fueled by what had become a national preoccupation with Powerball and the prospect of taking home untold riches.

In towns and cities across the country, millions of would-be billionaires, many of them who had never before played a lottery, stood in long lines to buy tickets. It was the largest lottery prize ever offered in North America, and no other lottery in the world had ever featured a jackpot of that size that could be won on a single ticket.

Under the rules, a winner has up to a year to claim his or her prize.

All three states with winners have laws requiring their names to be released publicly, according to the Powerball website.

MULTI-YEAR PAYOUT

To receive the full jackpot amount, winners must accept a multi-year annuity, whereas the lump sum cash payout for the jackpot was about US$983.5 million, lottery officials said. In November, a Tennessee ticket holder claimed a US$144.1 million prize.  

Aside from the jackpot winners in Wednesday’s drawing, some 26 million ticket holders won smaller prizes ranging from US$2 million to US$4, depending on the combination of numbers matched in the Powerball drawing, said Kelly Cripe, spokeswoman for the Texas lottery.

For every US$1 worth of Powerball sales, half goes to prizes, 40 per cent is earmarked for things such as education, and 10 per cent goes to retailers who sell the tickets and administrative costs, Grief said.

The cycle will start again on Saturday night when the next Powerball drawing will have an estimated jackpot of US$40 million, according to the lottery operator’s website.