Manuel Franco, a 24-year-old Wisconsin man who won the third largest jackpot in U.S. lottery history, a $768.4 million prize, said he “can’t believe that an ordinary guy like me could ever win the Powerball.”
He said he plans to “live my life normal as much as possible.”
Speaking at an April 23, 2019 press conference where his identity was unveiled for the first time, Franco, who is single but has a girlfriend, explained how he “felt lucky” on the day he bought the ticket, so he stopped into a New Berlin gas station near Milwaukee after work to purchase it. He almost winked at the camera, he said, but he didn’t.
He revealed that he wasn’t “ready for it at all” when the $2 ticket won. He’s decided to take the lump sum.
“It’s hard to live your life knowing that you have the ticket everyone wants,” Franco explained, indicating that it was a bit frightening having it in his possession until he turned it in. He kept the ticket in a safe in his house.
“We have a Wisconsinite who won the second largest prize – ever,” revealed Peter Barca, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue Secretary.
The winning ticket was posted on a board at the press conference in an area festooned with balloons. The rules said Manuel Franco needed to claim the ticket in person; the winner contacted the state on April 22 to reveal he had the winning ticket, according to WISN-TV. A dairy cow mascot was also present at the news conference.
“This is an amazing milestone moment for Wisconsin,” said Wisconsin Lottery Director Cindy Polzin in a news release. “It truly is incredible to think that the winning ticket for this historic jackpot was sold in our own backyard. I am extremely excited for the winners and for our state. This event puts us in the national spotlight and turns Wisconsin into WINsconsin.” The winning ticket was purchased at 2:14 p.m.
The winning numbers were 16, 20, 37, 44, 62 and the Powerball number is 12. Manuel Franco had no choice but to come forward with his name attached. “State law does not allow them to stay anonymous in Wisconsin,” said Polzin.
Polzin called it a “dream come true for our winner.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Manuel Franco Quit His Job Two Days After Winning the Jackpot
Manuel Franco didn’t disclose what he did for a job before he won but he said that he stopped showing up for work two days after winning the big prize. He does have a girlfriend. He usually spends about $10 a week on lottery tickets. Barca confirmed that the winner grew up in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area and still lives in the Milwaukee area. Barca called him a “lucky Wisconsinite.”
Franco described how his dad cried, and his mom thought he was in trouble, when he shared the news. He insisted the big win was true. He hasn’t been able to sleep more than three or four hours a day since winning.
Franco’s biggest concern before winning was “trying to get my bank account to $1,000.” He said he was born in Milwaukee, but he didn’t want to provide many biographical details. He said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to stay in the Milwaukee area.
He added, “It’s really amazing to just win. I played Powerball since I first could, when I was 18-years-old…my very first birthday when I was 18 I did buy a Powerball ticket, so it’s really good to win for once.” He said he wasn’t sure what the next chapter would bring.
According to the Wisconsin lottery, the New Berlin winner scored the third biggest jackpot in the history of the lottery. Polzin said in a previous press conference, “It is an exciting day to be from the State of Wisconsin today. Yesterday, a retailer in New Berlin sold what is the second highest Powerball jackpot winning ticket in history. It’s the third highest winning jackpot ticket in overall U.S. history. That is something that is unbelievable.”
The highest jackpot was for $1.586 billion. It was sold in 2016 in California, Florida and Tennessee. The second largest jackpot was sold in South Carolina in 2018. It was for $1.537 billion. A ticket for $758.7 million was sold in 2017 in Massachusetts, according to the Wisconsin Lottery.
Rounding out the list of top five lottery jackpots, a ticket for $687.8 million was sold in Iowa, New York in 2018.
“Excitement is sweeping across the state and the nation with the rise of the Powerball jackpot,” said Polzin in a press release before the winning ticket was announced. “The $750 million figure is staggering and historically, we’re talking about one of the largest jackpot amounts ever seen in the United States. As sales continue to rise in Wisconsin, our residents benefit from additional funds for prize payouts, property tax credits, and retail compensation.”
2. Franco, Who Purchased the Ticket at a Speedway Gas Station, Screamed for More Than Five Minutes After Winning
Manuel Franco described how he was now going to “take off somewhere” and make sure he spent the money “the right way.” He described in detail what happened when he realized that he had won. He didn’t even check the tickets right in the morning. He went to work first, and he remembers hearing at work that someone had won, but he didn’t suspect it was him.
When he got home, he saw two Powerball tickets that he and his girlfriend had bought together. He thought he “had a chance.” Those tickets weren’t winners. Then, he went into his wallet to look at the tickets that he bought on his own. First, he won $4. Then, he got to what he thought was the last ticket. That didn’t win. He had all the tickets in his left hand because he was discarding them as he went. Then, as he changed hands, he saw the last ticket come out because it was attached to another one.
Franco recalled, “I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, no way.'” He “looked at it one number at a time. I saw that first number. I knew it was something special… I see that second number, and my heart starts to pump. At that moment, I’m like, ‘No fricking way.’ It matched…. I was going pretty insane… What I can explain is that it was amazing. My heart started racing… I screamed for about five or 10 minutes.”
The lucky ticket was purchased at the Speedway at Moorland and Beloit roads in New Berlin. The gas station will reap $100,000 as a result of selling it.
“Congratulations to the Speedway on Beloit Road in New Berlin, Wisconsin,” Polzin said in a news conference. “This is New Berlin’s first jackpot winner. The winner has never won anything before.”
New Berlin, where the Wisconsin ticket was sold, is in the metropolitan area of Milwaukee. It’s a somewhat affluent, somewhat rural community in southeastern Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Lottery confirmed that the ticket was sold at the Speedway on 15555 W. Beloit Rd. in New Berlin, “approximately 15 miles southwest of downtown Milwaukee. The retailer will receive a $100,000 winning ticket incentive.”
3. Franco, Who is From West Allis, Explained That He Does ‘Want to Help Out the World’
The winning ticket was a Quick Pick. Franco explained that around 2 p.m., on the day he won, he had left work. “I pretty much felt lucky. It’s a weird lucky feeling.” He bought $10 worth of individual Powerball tickets.
“I honestly felt so lucky that I did look at the camera, and I did want to wink at it because I just had that lucky feeling. I did look up at that camera because I did feel lucky.” He said he didn’t wink, though.
Franco is from West Allis, Wisconsin, which is a suburb of Milwaukee, and where he’s lived for awhile. He gave part of the news conference in Spanish. He said he wasn’t sure what he will do with the money but he “wants to take a break….I do want to be responsible. I do want to help out the world, but I have to do it correctly.”
Wisconsin is now the 6th state with the most lottery winners.
The jackpot was advertised at $750 million, but the jackpot grew even higher than that. The winning ticket was higher due to strong ticket sales. Peak sales occurred at the 6 p.m. hour. Most people chose the quick picks, according to Polzin. She had urged the winner to immediately sign the ticket. They had 180 days to claim the ticket.
“The win marks Wisconsin’s 17th Powerball jackpot since 1988,” reports the Wisconsin Lottery.
“The Badger State is now tied for sixth on the all-time list of most frequent winning states. Wednesday’s win also came nearly two years to the day since Wisconsin hit its last Powerball jackpot when a Milwaukee resident won $156.2 million on March 22, 2017
4. Franco Beat Massive Odds
The big Powerball winner defeated massive odds to win the Powerball jackpot. Just how big were the odds? Consider, per the Wisconsin Lottery:
“Odds for winning the grand prize are listed by Powerball as 1 in 292,201,338.00. Wednesday was the first Powerball jackpot won in 2019 after it rolled 25 times since the last win on Dec. 26, 2018.”
According to the Wisconsin Lottery, the lottery gives “93 percent of its revenue to winners, retailers, and Wisconsin homeowners. Of each dollar spent on the Wisconsin Lottery, 57 cents goes back to prizes, 30 cents to property tax credits, seven cents to operations and six cents to retailers.”
5. The State Will Get a Massive Payday
Because the winner took the cash option – a whopping lump sum of $477 million – the state stands to reap in millions of dollars in taxes.
That amount is about $36 million if the winner takes the lump sum, authorities said at a news conference. The lottery win also had the choice to receive payments spread out over 29 years.
Peter Barca, the Department of Revenue Secretary, said, “I always refer to the lottery as our entertainment division… it doesn’t get anymore exciting than this. Even if you did not buy the winning Powerball ticket, and you’re a homeowner in Wisconsin… your property tax relief just got a little bigger.”
The goal of the lottery was in part to help give Wisconsinites property tax relief. He said homeowners get $117 a year in property tax credit already from the lottery. “Homeowners in Wisconsin just got a grand slam,” said Barca.
Polzin said the lump sum if you took it today is what is actually available in cash today. When the annuity is taken, government bonds are purchased, and it grows to the higher amount if the cash option is not selected. If not claimed, the money goes back to the lotteries.