EPHRATA - The suspense over who bought the two winning tickets in the $380 million Mega Millions nationwide lottery focused Wednesday on two small towns nestled just 125 miles apart here in the Pacific Northwest.
One was sold at a Safeway supermarket in Eastern Washington, and the other in Post Falls, Idaho.
Washington Lottery Communications Director Scott Kinney said the Washington ticket was sold to a retired man who plans to bring his family to claim his winnings today.
But no one in Idaho has come forward yet to claim the prize. Each ticket is worth $190 million, paid in 26 annual installments.
The prospect of winning the second-biggest jackpot in history drew huge interest across the country as thousands of people lined up to buy tickets in the 41 states and Washington, D.C., where the lottery is held.
A day after the drawing, all eyes were on a region where most of the nation’s frozen french fries are produced, and on the similarity between the winning digits and the ones used by a character on the television show “Lost.”
The winners had to match five regular numbers plus the “Mega ball.”
The winning numbers were 4, 8, 15, 25 and 47, with the Mega ball number of 42. Four of the six winning numbers matched numbers that were prominently featured throughout the popular series – 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42.
Video producer Ryan Jones of New York said he and a co-worker pooled their money to buy 10 tickets together, but he returned to the grocery store to buy an 11th entry just to play the “Lost” numbers.
Mega Millions said 25,587 tickets matched three of the winning numbers, plus the bonus number – so anyone who played the “Lost” numbers won $150 per ticket.
At the Safeway in Ephrata, customers came in one by one and placed their tickets into a machine to see if they had won something, even a few dollars. More than 5.5 million people won prizes, ranging from $10,000 to $2.
Most at the supermarket, however, turned away disappointed, tossing their tickets into a nearby trash can.
“We know as much as anyone else does,” said Nathan Arlantico, 21, the video department manager. He said the store was busy with lines of potential millionaires all day Tuesday.
Because of feverish sales right up to the evening drawing, the winners will share a $380 million jackpot, an increase over the previous $355 million estimate, Kinney said.
In March 2007, two winners, in Georgia and New Jersey, shared the richest prize – a $390 million Mega Millions jackpot.
In Idaho, the lucky winner also has the option of taking a nearly $81 million lump-sum payment after state and federal taxes are withheld, said Jeff Anderson, executive director of the Idaho Lottery.
No state taxes would apply in Washington, where the lump sum payment would be $90 million after the 25 percent federal tax.