Wisconsin $768 Million Powerball Jackpot Winner Claims Prize

Wednesday April 24th 2019 Wisconsin $768 Million Powerball Jackpot Winner Claims Prize

24-year-old Wisconsin man Manuel Franco has come forward as the winner of the $768.4 million Powerball jackpot from the March 27, 2019 drawing. He said he simply “felt lucky” when he bought the winning ticket on the day of the draw. It was the third-largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history.

"It feels like a dream," Franco, who lives in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, said at a press conference at Wisconsin Lottery headquarters in Madison as he claimed his prize on Tuesday. 

"It was amazing, my heart started racing, blood pumping,” he remembered of the moment he realized he'd won. 

When he told his parents, "my dad cried lot," he said. Franco’s parents were there to see their son claim his prize.

Mr. Franco bought his Quick Pick ticket on March 27 at the Speedway store at 15555 West Beloit Road in New Berlin, a town about 15 minutes west of Milwaukee. The retailer will receive $100,000 for selling the winning ticket. 

The March 27 winning Powerball numbers were 16, 20, 37, 44, 62, and Powerball 12.

"The story of how I won is a bit of a tale,” Mr. Franco told reporters. “At around 2 PM I left work and pretty much felt lucky. It's a weird, lucky feeling. It's not natural, not normal at all,” he said. “I walked into the Speedway and purchased $10 worth of Powerball tickets. I honestly felt so lucky that I did look up at the camera and I wanted to wink at it cause I just had that lucky feeling."

Amazingly, Mr. Franco went into work the next day not knowing that he held the winning ticket. "I actually do not watch the drawings at nighttime, nor did I check in the morning,” he said. “I went to work not knowing any better than to check my tickets. I left work that day and I never thought two things about it."

After work, Franco went online and saw the news that the jackpot-winning ticket had been sold in Wisconsin. This prompted him to first go through tickets he and his girlfriend had bought, but he didn’t find any winners. 

Then he went through the tickets he had bought after work, which he had kept in his wallet. "I said 'I live in Wisconsin' and went through it. I reached into my wallet, and the third ticket I won four dollars and I was super excited about that. I got to what I thought was my last ticket and it didn't win."

Then he noticed one more ticket. 

"I looked at it one number at a time. I saw that first number [match] ... I see that second number, and my heart started to pump," he remembered.

Finally reaching the last number, he saw that it, too, matched the winning numbers. He then scanned back to the other numbers to check them again. 

"At this moment I was going insane," he recalled. "I screamed for about five or ten minutes. Good thing my neighbors didn't hear.”

Franco is a Wisconsin native who was born in Milwaukee. He has been a loyal Powerball player for years, buying his first ticket on his 18th birthday. 

He’s chosen to take the lump sum of his winnings rather than an annuity. The total cash value is $477 million, and after taxes he will receive just over $326 million.

Before his amazing win, Franco’s biggest financial challenge was getting his bank balance up to $1,000.

He has hired a team of lawyers and financial advisers to help him handle his riches responsibly. "I'm sure you'll never see me as like one of the people who went bankrupt or broke or anything like that,” he said. “I plan to live my life normal as much as possible."

His spending wishlist does include traveling, paying for family members’ college tuition, and donating to charity to “help out the world.”

The March 27 jackpot was the third-biggest in U.S. lottery history, behind a world record $1.58 billion Powerball jackpot shared by winners in California, Florida and Tennessee in January 2016, and a $1.5 billion Mega Millions prize won in South Carolina in October 2018.

March 27 was also the second-largest Powerball prize ever, and the first Powerball jackpot won in 2019. The jackpot had rolled over 25 times since it was last won on December 26, 2018.

The ticket is the biggest winning ticket in Wisconsin Lottery history. "This is truly one of the most exciting days in the 30-plus years of the Wisconsin Lottery," said Lottery Director Cindy Polzin. "With this historic milestone Wisconsin became 'Winsconsin' and our state received an incredible amount of national attention. As Lottery Director, I have always wanted to present a 'big check' to a winner. I am extremely happy for Manny and his life-changing experience. It's truly a moment to celebrate across the state."

Mr. Franco’s win was the 17th Powerball jackpot in Wisconsin since 1988. The state is now an impressive joint sixth on the list of states with the most wins.

The latest jackpot win comes almost exactly two years after the last Powerball top prize won in Wisconsin, when Milwaukee woman Mai Xiong won a life-changing $156.2 million Powerball jackpot on March 22, 2017.

Another interesting aspect of the jackpot win is that while Powerball and Mega Millions are played in multiple U.S. states and territories, each state sets its own rules about whether lottery winners can stay anonymous.

For example, South Carolina allows winners to keep their identity secret, as the winner of last year’s $1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot chose to do. 

Wisconsin law does not allow the winner to keep their identity private, said Ms. Polzin.

However, that could soon change. Within an hour of Franco's press conference, two Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Rep. Gary Tauchen, introduced legislation that would allow lottery winners to remain anonymous.

"The government shouldn't force lottery winners to come forward publicly if they don't want to," Vos said. "Just because you win the lottery, it shouldn't mean you lose your right to privacy."

As for Mr. Franco, he is still processing things. "I just couldn't believe that an ordinary guy like me could win," he said. "I'm not sure what the next chapter is going to bring for my life. It feels like a dream, and it feels honestly like, any moment, I'm going to wake up and I'm just going to be back in my room, in my bed." 

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