Minnesota Lottery Director Robert Doty’s enthusiasm level on Monday hit the jackpot bell early.
“Giving away big money is always a fun thing,” he said. “When the jackpots get like this, it is super exciting. Everyone wants to talk about it.”
Somebody’s going to win big money at some point soon — possibly with the Mega Millions drawing Tuesday, or the Powerball on Wednesday.
With the jackpots soaring into the heavens, Minnesotans are streaming to convenience stores for their shot at instant riches — or far more likely, a few hours of fantasizing about what they would do with all that money.
The odds aren’t great: You have a 1 in 302 million chance of winning the big prize in Mega Millions, and 1 in 292 million for the Powerball jackpot.
Still, each ticket to enter one of the drawings costs $2. “That’s not a bad return on your investment,” Doty quipped.
As exhilarating as that big win would be, running down to the Roseville lottery office first thing the next day to claim the prize is not advised. While winners have a year from the drawing date to collect their winnings, in Minnesota they can’t remain anonymous. So in addition to deciding whether to take a lump sum or annuities, the winner has to decide whether to face the media immediately or handle it on their own.
Doty can’t play the lottery, nor can he help winners make legal or financial decisions. He can’t even say whether winners should hire legal counsel or financial advisers, though he concedes it would be a good idea for a winner to have “smart people” around to help navigate their sudden good fortune.
Once a ticket is verified, Doty and his staff help winners determine whether they want to have a news conference at the lottery’s headquarters or deal with thousands of media calls on their own.
“We’ve actually helped people out the back door so they don’t have to stand there with 100 cameras,” Doty said. “But there are people who don’t mind being on the front page of every newspaper across the country.”
Minneapolis lawyer Charlie Nauen does offer advice: Take your time and hire a lawyer before claiming the prize.
“It’s such a life-changing thing. Don’t go public with it until you’re ready,” he said.
Nauen, who has helped clients navigate windfalls, if not lottery winnings, said a lawyer would help the winner assemble a team to look out for suddenly complicated financial interests. His first step would be to hire an accountant, and he’d also seek out financial, public relations, charitable and tax advisers. “You know what happens when you don’t have somebody doing that — you’re going to have a lot of people offering to do it,” he said.
The financial issues get complicated even for someone used to money. As an example Nauen pointed to former Timberwolves player Kevin Garnett, who said he was swindled out of $77 million by his advisers.
“Whoever wins it is going to have friends they didn’t know they had, relatives coming from everywhere and business partners who think they went in with them on the ticket,” he said.
He counsels a thoughtful, methodical approach to hiring a lawyer to lead the team: Do some research, interview lawyers, find someone you like. As tempting as it may be to start spending and handing out millions, get a plan first.
“You think it’s going to last forever, and pretty soon it’s gone,” Nauen said.
Hennepin County Judge Kevin Burke had cheekier advice: “First you should tell your spouse — and you should tell your spouse how much you love them to avoid an expensive dissolution. Then you should either call a tax lawyer or accountant.”
Whoever wins, they’re in for a lot of money. Mega Millions is at $1.6 billion for a single winner, a record amount. The Powerball jackpot is the sixth highest in its history, at $620 million. The largest previous jackpot was a Powerball prize of $1.58 billion.
The more people buy, the more money goes to the state. Doty noted that a portion of every dollar goes to the state for uses ranging from schools, roads and bridges to environmental programs.
But even though the prize will get bigger — along with the state’s revenue — if nobody wins, Doty’s ready for somebody to get lucky.
“We would love to see a jackpot winner. You know what? I’d love to see a Minnesotan win that jackpot,” he said.