Tilton lotto winner

Denny Smith of Tilton buys some lottery tickets Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, at the County Market store in Tilton where a $1 million winning Mega Millions ticket was sold.

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TILTON — People in Tilton are eager to know who just became a millionaire thanks to a lucky Mega Millions ticket sold at County Market.

“It would be nice if it was one of our regulars,” said Christie Norton, assistant customer service manager at the store at 1628 Georgetown Road, which gets a $10,000 bonus for selling the $1 million ticket.

It was bought for the Tuesday drawing and matched all five numbers — 4-9-17-27-39 — but not the Mega Ball, 22. If that had matched, too, it would have been worth $105 million.

But Norton said $1 million still sounds good to her.

She and other employees working the customer service desk Wednesday, including Elizabeth Hallett and Terrie Denney, were buzzing about not only who has the million-dollar ticket but also which one of them may have sold it.

“Everybody’s been talking about it,” Norton said.

The three of them said they heard the big news about midmorning Wednesday when their Illinois Lottery representative came into the store and told them. They said local social media has been blowing up with speculation about who the winner could be and whether anyone knows them.

Norton said there are about six locals who come into the store to buy Mega tickets very regularly, and at least two of them buy a ticket every day.

“We sell quite a bit,” she said, adding that two of the buyers usually get $100 worth of tickets at a time.

The tickets can be bought either at the desk, where an employee handles the transaction, or from of a self-serve machine in the store. Norton said more are sold at the desk, so she assumes the winner was sold there, and they assume the odds are good that it’s a Tilton resident.

On Wednesday, some customers were stopping by the desk to ask if employees know who the new millionaire is. Norton wondered if the person could stay anonymous.

“We just want to know who it is,” she said, joking that customers often say they’ll remember her when they hit the jackpot.

Denny Smith was buying lottery tickets at the store Wednesday afternoon and confirmed he wasn’t the big winner. He said he doesn’t play the Mega Millions and prefers scratch-off tickets, and the million-dollar ticket wasn’t going to change his approach.

“I have better luck with them,” he said of scratch-offs, adding that he won $1,000 once.

Norton said the store sold a $75,000 instant scratch-off ticket once, but never a $1 million winner. She said they’ve had smaller winners through other ticket sales, and some of those winners have actually shared a bit of their jackpot — $10 bills — with the employees at the service desk.

“We have good customers,” said Norton, who recalled another million-dollar ticket sold at another business further down Illinois 1 in Westville.

That million-dollar Powerball ticket was sold in February 2015 at the Phillips 66 gas station at 1717 N. State St. to local construction worker Chris Vice, who said he followed a buddy’s advice about buying a ticket because the jackpot was up to $500 million.

Like this week’s unknown Tilton winner, Vice matched all the numbers but not the Powerball, which would have made him $499 million richer. Vice walked away with $712,500 after federal and state taxes were withheld, according to lottery officials.

Illinois Lottery officials said they urge the Tilton County Market winner to sign the back of the ticket and keep it in a safe place until that person can visit one of the lottery’s five prize centers in Chicago, Des Plaines, Rockford, Springfield or Fairview Heights.

Winners have one year from the original drawing date to claim the prize.


Tracy Crane is a Danville-based reporter for The News-Gazette. Her email is tcrane@news-gazette.com.