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South Carolina resident wins US$1.54b jackpot after allowing punter to cut queue

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The anonymous winner took five months to come forward to claim the money. He had about a one in 302 million shot to get all the numbers right.

New York

AN anonymous person in South Carolina finally claimed the record-setting prize from last October's US$1.54 billion Mega Millions jackpot, opting to collect a one-time lump sum of US$877,784,124.

The state's lottery commission announced on Monday that the person had stepped forward, ending questions about why, five months after the winning numbers were announced, no one had claimed the money. It was the largest payout to a single lottery winner in United States history. The winner had until April 19 to claim the money.

Winning the lottery comes with a long list of difficult decisions, which may explain the delay in making the claim. So far, the winner has followed the typical playbook to minimise or avoid potential complications: He or she has stayed anonymous and has got some help.

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The winner retained Jason Kurland, a New York lawyer who has branded himself the "Lottery Lawyer" after representing several high-profile winners. Last October, Mr Kurland told The New York Times that the biggest challenge is making sure the windfall does not ruin personal relationships.

"It's natural there's going to be a strain," he said. "It depends on how strong your relationships are before the lottery. If you're really close with someone and they feel they deserve a gift, it's really difficult. It's one of the things winners are freaked out about when they come to me."

The winner was fortunate to be a resident of South Carolina, one of a handful of states where winners are allowed to remain anonymous. In other US states, winners have to sit through a news conference, and the publicity can attract all varieties of vultures who would look to take advantage.

The winning US$2 ticket - with the numbers 5, 28, 62, 65, 70; and the Mega Ball 5 - was sold at a convenience store, KC Mart No 7, in the city of Simpsonville. The store owner, CJ Patel, will receive US$50,000.

The winner had about a one in 302 million shot to get all the numbers right.

The South Carolina Education Lottery Commission said in a statement that the winner "marvels at how every decision made that day brought the winner to the store, at that very moment, to make the Quick Pick Mega Millions lottery ticket purchase".

The winner had allowed another customer to make a ticket purchase in front of him or her in line, the commission said.

"A simple act of kindness led to an amazing outcome," it said.

Lottery profits support higher education, scholarships, K-12 programmes and community education programmes, the lottery commission said. South Carolina will receive about US$61 million in income taxes from the winner.

The winner chose the smaller lump sum over an annuity, which would have paid out the full US$1.54 billion in smaller payments over 30 years. Most people take the one-time cash payment, but it is definitely not an easy decision to make. NYTIMES