Just last week, Paul White’s family was playing a game. Who in the group, the card asked, has a “financial plan that consists of playing the lottery”?
“Well, everybody picked my name,” White said, eyebrow cocked. “And they thought it was funny then.”
On Thursday, White proved them wrong — or maybe right? The 45-year-old project engineer won a third of the $448.4 million Powerball jackpot with a ticket bought at the Holiday in his northern suburb of Ham Lake. At an afternoon news conference, White said he imagined winning so many times that he was confident, in a way, that it would happen. “I feel like it’s almost been coming,” he said.
With a big smile and quick wit, White also seemed prepared for the prime-time coverage he and two other lucky souls from New Jersey will earn after splitting the multistate game’s third-largest payout.
Pointing to his boss sitting beside him, he quipped: “He started the day as my boss. He’s going to end the day my chauffeur.”
White, who works at Elliott Contracting in Minneapolis, said he usually plays scratch-off lottery games. But about once a month, when the Powerball jackpot grows fat, he’ll put down $10 and let the computer come up with some numbers. His birthday month and day popped up on what he’d later learn was the winning ticket.
That $10 investment paid off to the tune of $149.4 million. White opted for the immediate cash payout of $86 million. After taxes, his total will come to about $58.3 million.
While other winners typically wait for a few days, going unnamed as they consult attorneys and financial advisers, White drove straight to the Minnesota State Lottery headquarters in Roseville.
“Like I said,” he said with a laugh, “I’ve been waiting for this day my entire life.”
The money “takes pressure off my shoulders,” White said. He plans to use his millions to fund his kids’ college tuition and a few good causes — plus a couple of cars.
He’s been eyeing a 1990s Acura NSX on Craigslist for $30,000. Then there’s a 1963 Chevrolet Impala, the first car his father ever bought. His dad, now 80, still has a framed photo of it.
“I’m going to find that car,” White said — and give it to his dad.
Speaking of cars: White nearly forgot to buy a Powerball ticket Wednesday evening, but his girlfriend’s 16-year-old son was looking for an excuse to drive his grandmother’s new convertible.
White realized he had the winning ticket the next morning, when his partner of four years, Kim VanReese, called him at work. “Are you a millionaire yet?” she said. He knew he had two tickets with a Powerball of 32 but said he was too busy to check whether the other numbers matched. She insisted.
He whooped, then ran around the office.
“I had 10 people verify the ticket before I left,” he said. Co-workers took photos. He called and texted his two teenage children, as well as VanReese’s kids.
“It was like a shock, a major shock,” said Wyatt VanReese, 16, who watched the news conference on TV with his 14-year-old sister, Lauren.
White is Minnesota’s 22nd Powerball jackpot winner since the game began in 1992. The state also had six jackpot winners of LottoAmerica, Powerball’s predecessor.
The largest Powerball payout in Minnesota was for a ticket sold Aug. 10, 2011, when Tom and Kathleen Morris of Burnsville struck for $228.9 million. They opted for the cash payout, a total of $123 million, which shrank to just shy of $84 million after taxes.
Someone won a nice consolation prize Wednesday night in Minnesota, as well. A ticket matched all five numbers to nab the $874,189 Gopher 5 jackpot. That ticket also was purchased in Anoka County. The Holiday Station Store in Ham Lake on Crosstown Boulevard, which sold White the ticket, will get a $50,000 bonus.
A recent game change meant to build excitement about the lottery increased the frequency of huge jackpots, and Wednesday’s jackpot drawing comes only a few months after the biggest Powerball jackpot in history — a $590 million pot won in Florida by an 84-year-old widow. The second-largest Powerball jackpot was won in November and was split between two tickets from Arizona and Missouri.
The winning numbers drawn Wednesday night were 5, 25, 30, 58, 59 and a Powerball of 32. The chances of winning were 1 in 175 million, according to the lottery game.
White, who brought VanReese, his brother and two co-workers onstage with him Thursday afternoon, said the group had been talking about how that much money sometimes ruins lives.
“I hope it doesn’t change us a lot,” VanReese said. “I hope we stay grounded.”
White worries some about the safety of his family.
“There’s crazy people,” he said. “We’ve all seen ‘The Jerk.’ ” But at the same time, he said, “I have faith that a lot of good things are going to come out of this.”
He expects his sister to help him pick out charities worthy of some cash and imagines spending his time and money “making a difference.” But he looks forward to being his own boss.
“I’m not going to be one of those people that says, ‘I’ll keep working,’ ” he said.
His boss, Ron Bowen, a vice president at Elliott, an electrical construction company, said the group got the news that the ticket had been verified during lunch at Big Louie’s Bar and Grill, not far from the lottery headquarters.
“We were just in shock,” Bowen said, then paused. “And I still paid for lunch.
“I did tell him this is the last lunch that I pay for.”