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Stone Mountain woman wins Mega Millions Jackpot

8:28 PM, Dec 19, 2013   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) -- A Stone Mountain woman was one of the two winners of Tuesday's $648 million Mega Millions jackpot.

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, the Georgia Lottery said Ira Curry, 56, picked family birth dates and their lucky number 7.  She elected to take the cash option, which amounts to more than $173 million before taxes.

State income tax of 6 percent and federal income tax of 25 percent are automatically withheld at the time a prize is claimed, but there are ordinarily additional taxes due on prizes.

Georgia Lottery officials said Curry would receive her proceeds in about two weeks.

Curry bought her winning ticket at the Gateway Newstand in Buckhead.

The store does not get any winning money but does get 6 percent of ticket sales.

The Georgia Lottery used to pay bonuses to stores that sold winning tickets, but that was changed during the first year of Gov. Nathan Deal's administration. When Deal signed the HOPE Scholarship revamp bill in March, 2011, bonuses to stores that sold winning tickets were eliminated, and lottery employee bonuses were cut back significantly. 

This was done because lottery proceeds had flattened, and with HOPE Scholarship demand soaring, the agency's balance was in danger of turning negative. 

The other winner was a lucky costumer who bought a winning ticket at Jennifer's Gift Shop in San Jose, according to California Lottery spokesman Alex Traverso. 

After sales were tallied, the jackpot in Tuesday's drawing was increased from an advertised $636 million to about $648 million, marking the second richest lottery prize in American history.

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In addition to the jackpot prize in Georgia, two $1 million prize winning tickets were sold in Columbus and Winder, three $20,000 tickets were sold in Cave Spring, Decatur and Marietta. There were also 26 $5,000 winners, 18 $2,000 winners and more than 929,000 winners at lower prize levels in the state.

"For us, the main thing we'd like to get across is the level of excitement we saw all across California," Traverso told the Associated Press. "At one point, we were selling about 25,000 tickets per minute."

"It's been an amazing experience. It's unbelievable," he said.

The odds of winning were about 1 in 259 million.

Jennifer's Gift Shop owner Thuy Nguyen will receive a prize of about $1 million for selling the winning ticket, lottery officials told the San Jose Mercury News.

"I am so happy, I feel good," Nguyen told the Mercury News after learning his store had sold the winning ticket.

There is no retailer bonus in Georgia for selling the winning ticket. 

Tuesday's jackpot had rolled over 21 straight drawings since Oct. 4, worth a lump, sum, pre-tax payout worth $314.2 million.

The winning numbers were 8, 20, 14, 17, 39 and 7.

Ticket sales - the topic of TV, radio, social media and burgeoning office pools - surged in the hours leading up to the drawing, even though up to 75% of the possible number combinations were expected to be picked.

"Even though the odds are against you, it's just the excitement of, 'H

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