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Store atwitter over Lotto ticket

A Hess Express in Brooksville dispensed one of the four winning tickets drawn Saturday night, but the clerks don't know to whom.

By ROBERT KING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 22, 2002


BROOKSVILLE -- Someone who stopped by the Hess Express station at State Road 50 and Cobb Road last week won a truckload of money in Saturday night's Florida Lotto.

But the big question is: Who?

Florida Lottery officials say one of four winning tickets in Saturday night's $85-million Lotto jackpot was purchased at the Hess Express store, which sits opposite Hardee's along the truck route just west of Brooksville.

The three other winning Lotto tickets were sold in Jacksonville, Miami and in Palm Beach County, which means the jackpot will be split four ways. None of the winners had come forward Monday to claim their prizes.

At the Hess Express, there was nonstop speculation Monday about the winner's identity and an almost bewildering sense that something miraculous had occurred.

Stephanie Kinney of Brooksville bought a Lotto ticket in the same store last week. On Sunday morning, a friend called to tell her the winning ticket had been sold in Brooksville.

Immediately, Kinney started spending money in her head. She, her husband and her business partner were already pledging to hold fast to the secret of their success.

It's got to be us, she thought. But after checking her ticket, rechecking it, and checking it a third time, Kinney knew lightning had struck someone else.

"That's too close. It feels better when it's way off (in another part of the state). It should have been us," said Kinney, who is 42. Then she paused for a moment before saying, "I'm going to go back and check my ticket again."

Hess Express store manager Daniel Peters said his assistant manager received a call Sunday morning from a state lottery official who said a winning ticket had been sold there. The assistant called him at home to deliver the news.

"I think I was pretty speechless," Peters said.

Stores that sell winning tickets get $10,000. But like the jackpot itself, the retailers' award will be split four ways this time.

Although there was much speculation at the store Monday about the winner's identity -- one theory was that it was a sheriff's deputy, another a Winn-Dixie employee -- Peters said he and his staff don't know who won.

Whoever the winner, he or she will be coming into a lot of cash.

Exactly how much depends on how the winner wants to collect -- one lump sum or 30 annual payments. And the winners don't have to take the cash the same way.

Taking the lump sum generally cuts the pot in half, since the full amount -- $85-million in this case -- is based on what the pot would generate if invested in U.S. government securities over 30 years.

Had one person won this pot, that would have meant a lump sum payment of about $42.5-million. Uncle Sam would get 27 percent, or about $11.5-million, for federal taxes.

That means a lone winner who took the lump sum would have enjoyed a prize of roughly $31-million. Carved up four ways, it amounts to $7.8-million or so.

It's just barely enough to be considered filthy, stinking rich.

Still, it sounds good to Fred Waddy of Brooksville, a regular visitor to the Hess store who made the mistake last week of buying his tickets while in Sebring. "I should have played here," said Waddy, who is 34. "Everybody's going to buy here now."

-- Times staff writer Robert King can be reached at 754-6127. Send e-mail to rking@sptimes.com.

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