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Won the Powerball jackpot? Why Wisconsin law means you'll have to trade your name for the millions

Won the Powerball jackpot? Why Wisconsin law means you'll have to trade your name for the millions

MADISON, Wis. - Someone who bought a lottery ticket in New Berlin, Wisconsin, will be hundreds of millions of dollars richer, and once they come forward, their name will be released to the public.

"Today's been amazingly crazy,” Wisconsin Lottery Director Cindy Polzin said.

After news broke that the one winning ticket in Wednesday's $768.4 million Powerball lottery was sold in Wisconsin, it's been a celebration.

"We are having the time of our lives at the Wisconsin Lottery today, absolutely," Polzin said.

To put that kind of money into perspective, on the Brewers’ opening day, “This kind of money could buy 305 brats for every fan at Miller Park today,” Polzin said.

Polzin calls it a win for the whole state.

"The state of Wisconsin through income taxes will get $38 million that the Legislature and governor can use as they wish,” she said, adding that the Wisconsin Lottery has contributed to more than $4.3 billion in property tax credits for eligible homeowners in the state since 1988.

Polzin was in Phoenix with other lottery directors from around the country when she heard the winning ticket came from a Speedway in New Berlin.

"I was razzing other lottery directors, saying, 'Well, I won't be here on Thursday. I'll be on a red-eye home.' Sure enough, I was on a red-eye home,” she said. “So I don't know, intuition, maybe, but maybe just luck."

Luck is exactly what it takes when the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 292,201,338.

"It's so rare that something like this happens," Polzin said.

And then there's the law, requiring the winner's name be published.

“People like that. Some people like sharing their name,” said Cary Heyer, public records custodian at Madison College. "Some people are really adverse to that because there's a tendency for people to like them a lot all of a sudden."

Heyer said in Wisconsin, the winner's identity must be released out of general public interest.

“People start asking other questions like, ‘Is it really going to an individual who won it legitimately or is the money being pushed around somewhere else?’” he said. "Here we know because of open records laws that are transparent, that the money is going for exactly the purpose it was intended for."

“It’s very important for the media, Legislature and players to know that where the money is going is not into my pocket, but it is being paid appropriately,” Polzin said.

Having your name known for hundreds of millions of dollars is perhaps a small trade-off.

"Most people are willing to accept that risk knowing they'll be taken care of for the rest of their life,” Heyer said.

Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina are the six states in the country that do allow winners to remain anonymous.

The big winner in Wisconsin has 180 days to come forward.
 

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