Through just the first two months of the new year, Virginia already produced a handful of $1 million lottery winners.
Four Virginians claimed prizes of at least $1 million since the calendar turned to 2023. That list, as of Wednesday, doesn’t include the five winners of the New Year’s Millionaire Raffle.
Here’s a look at each winner and their story.
Willie Lawson of Blackstone
Willie Lawson, a Blackstone resident, won the $1 million prize playing the 20X the Money Game scratcher.
“I said, ‘This ain’t real,'” Lawson told the Virginia Lottery. “No way! Not in my little town!”
Lawson bought the winning ticket at Belmont Express, located at 6021 Belmont Road in Richmond. He is a handyman and purchased the lucky ticket while on a service call. When he returned home, he scratched off the ticket.
“It’s unreal,” he said. “I’m still processing it.”
Lawson had two options when claiming his ticket. He could receive the full $1 million over 30 years or a one-time cash option. Lawson opted for the one-time option, which came out to $625,000 before taxes.
According to the Virginia Lottery, Lawson is just the first winner of the 20X the Money Game. Five other top prizes remain unclaimed.
Dennis Mastie of Alexandria joins 2023 $1 million lottery winners
Retiree Dennis Mastie isn’t quite sure what he wants to do with this winnings just yet, but that’s a good problem to have.
Mastie won $1 million by matching five of the six winning numbers in the Jan. 23 drawing Powerball drawing.
The Alexandria resident bought his winning ticket at Giant Food, located at 5870 Kingstowne Boulevard. Mastie matched all five white balls, but missed on the Powerball.
“I’m still in shock!” he told the Virginia Lottery. “I had no idea!”
Mastie’s accomplishment is no easy feat. According to the Virginia Lottery, the odds to win any Powerball prize are 1 in 25. There are 1 in 292.2 million odds to match all six numbers, something Mastie nearly achieved.
Gregory Smith of Boones Mill
Gregory Smith won $1 million playing Mega Millions in similar fashion to Mastie. Smith, a Boones Mill resident, correctly chose the first five numbers, missing only the Mega Ball number.
Smith’s ticket was the only one in Virginia to match the first five numbers of the Jan. 3 drawing. Including him, only six people were successful across the country.
Smith purchased his winning Mega Millions ticket at Clearbook Mini Mart, which resides at 5469 Franklin Road in Roanoke.
Smith bought his winning ticket at the Roanoke convenience store, but lotto plays and instant-win games are available online as well. That’s how another Virginia winner hit it big.
Bill Pickens of Chesapeake joins $1 million lottery club
Bill Pickens has been playing a certain set of Mega Millions numbers for about a year. Finally, those numbers paid off, as he claimed his spot among the $1 million winners with a winning ticket he purchased online through the Virginia Lottery.
Pickens matched the first five numbers in the drawing, only missing the Mega Ball number from the July 22, 2022 drawing.
He told the lottery that he intends to use part of his winnings to make canes for Purple Heart verterans.
The Virginia Lottery says the odds of matching the first five numbers are one in 12,607,306. The odds of matching all six? One in 302,575,350.
Your Virginia Lottery dollars go to a good cause
These four Virginians weren’t the only winners from lottery dollars. All Virginia lottery profits go directly toward K-12 education within the state.
In the last fiscal year, more than $779 million from lottery profits went toward Virignia’s K-12 education. That totaled nearly 10% of the state’s K-12 budget.
Not everyone will become $1 million lottery winners, so remember to gamble responsibly
With March, Problem Gambling Awareness Month, just around the corner, it’s important to remember the importance of responsibility when buying lottery tickets, or any gambling, for that matter.
The Virginia Lottery’s Play Responsibility campaign wants to make sure residents are informed gamblers. According to the campaign:
- Know and understand the odds
- Play for entertainment only
- Set a budget and stick to those limits
- Maintain a balance in your life
- Know the warning signs of gambling problems
- Don’t look at gambling as an income
The Virginia Problem Gambling Helpline is 888-532-3500. For more information, visit the lottery’s website.