ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Just down the hill from where New York's leaders are wrestling with a $10 billion deficit, a tiny variety store in downtown Albany was abuzz Saturday with talk of a financial windfall.
The winning ticket for Friday night's $319 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot was sold at Coulson's News Center, just blocks from the New York Capitol building, a lottery official announced. The phone rang non-stop Saturday morning, and a steady stream of customers passed through the newsstand and magazine shop to get coffee, the daily paper and, of course, lottery tickets, as word spread that the store sold the fifth-largest jackpot in Mega history.
Millions Store manager Steve Gallucci said lottery sales were up this week with the skyrocketing jackpot, but he didn't know yet who won. He expects to find out Monday from gaming officials.
"A lot of office people come in," he said. "A lot of regulars."
Coulson's, which opened in 1895, sits on a broad avenue across the street from the massive Gothic-style D&H Railroad's former headquarters and just around the corner from Jack's Oyster House, a storied restaurant where Albany's power brokers have for decades wandered down the hill from the ornate Capitol to cut deals over dinner and drinks.
The newsstand, with an unremarkable storefront adorned with signs advertising beer, cigarettes and other standard convenience store fare, is a regular stop for state employees who dominate the work force here.
Gallucci said the store had a $3.5 million state Lotto winner before, but nothing this big. He said he has no preference who he hoped would win.
"I just hope it is somebody who's going to use the money in a good way," he said.
The final sales numbers pushed the annuity value of the prize to $319 million, with a cash value of $202.9 million, for the drawing that includes 41 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The largest jackpot in Mega Millions history was $390 million in March 2007, and there have been three others higher than Friday's prize. But the most recent winning ticket has the distinction of being the largest jackpot for a single winning ticket in the game's history, eclipsing one worth $315 million that was sold in California in November 2005.
It's the second big lottery win around New York's Capitol since December. A couple from Saratoga County, about 30 miles north of Albany, won a $48.8 million Powerball jackpot on Christmas Day.
The Mega Millions jackpot-winning ticket has been sold in New York 24 times since the game started in the state in 2002. The earliest the winner, or winners, can claim the prize is Monday, because lottery offices in Schenectady are closed for the weekend, New York Lottery spokeswoman Carolyn Hapeman said.
The winning numbers in Friday's drawing were: 22, 24, 31, 52, and 54, and 4 as the Mega ball.
Hapeman said the winner has a year from the date of the drawing to claim the prize and that the holder of the winning jackpot ticket has the option of taking the prize over 25 years or as a cash payout.