COLUMBIA — The winner of that $1.5 billion lottery ticket sold in the Upstate last October has finally surfaced — and South Carolina taxpayers could get $50 each as a bonus.
The Mega Millions winner, who wants to remain anonymous, will take a one-time payment of $877.8 million. That is the largest jackpot payout ever to a single winner, the South Carolina Lottery Commission announced Monday.
The state will collect $61 million in income taxes as its share of the jackpot.
And if lawmakers follow through on a budget proposal in the House, the state would send the jackpot windfall to South Carolina taxpayers. With $35 million more added from other tax collections, the plan would kick back $50 to each income tax filer.
"I’m glad the money stays in South Carolina. Obviously, South Carolina will reap the benefits of that," said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Murrell Smith, R-Sumter. "What we’re hoping is that, through the taxpayer rebate, all taxpayers in this state will also benefit as a result."
But the rebate proposal still has a long way to go. Even if the idea survives next week's budget debate by the full House, it needs approval in the Senate. The House proposal is a trimmed-down version of the $200 million in rebates that Gov. Henry McMaster requested for the fiscal year starting July 1.
The jackpot winner is a South Carolinian, state lottery director Hogan Brown. But he gave no other identifying details.
Who won the nation’s second-largest lottery jackpot might never be known. South Carolina is among a handful of states that allows lottery winners to remain anonymous.
"We are delighted that the winner is a South Carolinian and has come forward to claim this remarkable prize," Brown said. "We respect the winner’s decision to remain anonymous, and we will honor the winner's wishes."
The winner has hired New York attorney Jason Kurland, who calls himself the "lottery lawyer" on his website, to face the public. A news conference will be held once the payment transaction is complete.
Who became mega-rich came down to an act of kindness. While in line at a Simpsonville gas station, the winner allowed another customer to step in front to buy a ticket, according to a news release.
"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 lottery said.
The store that sold the ticket, KC Mart in Simpsonville, will receive $50,000.
The winner came forward with less than two months remaining in the 180-day deadline.
If the winner hadn't surfaced before the six-month deadline, the entire pot would have been divided among all 44 states participating in the Mega Millions contest, based on each state’s percentage of total sales. That would have put about $11 million into South Carolina’s unclaimed prizes fund, according to state economists.