Lotto fever hits central Illinois

By WEEK Producer

November 28, 2012 Updated Oct 26, 2013 at 4:18 AM CDT

CENTRAL ILLINOIS -- Lottery fever is reaching record heights at the Powerball jackpot has increased to more than a half-a-billion dollars.

Wednesday night's jackpot is the second largest in lotto history, and strong ticket sales mean that number and your chances of winning could continue to rise.

The lucky winner of a $550 million dollar jackpot has much to consider. First, how do you accept your fortune while saving the most on taxes? Option one, you could take it in a lump sum of $330 million.

"I think one of the big misconceptions is once you receive that lump sum payment that the taxes are already taken out, but that's only the beginning," said Total Income Tax President William Sharpe.

Sharpe said that money would still be taxed over 29 years, earning more like $196 million. Option two would spread out over that time, making just shy of $10 million per year. Then again, federal taxes could change at the start of each year.

"You're basically paying an unknown tax rate for 29 years into the future," said Sharpe.

That risk does not seem to be keeping Lotto players from gambling on a tax increase. Gas stations and convenience stores are seeing an increase in customers throughout central Illinois. The owner of Mark's Market in West Peoria said he sold more than 220 tickets before noon on Wednesday.

Joseph Johnson bets the same numbers and plays the lotto regularly.

"It only takes one to win, and I hope I got that lucky one to win. In the meantime, I wish everybody else a blessing on this, too," said Illinois Lotto player Joseph Johnson.

He says he has done his research on beating the odds and making the most of taxable winnings.

"Well, before the state gets broke, I think I'll take it all at one time," said Johnson.

If you're now thinking about rushing out to get your ticket, here are some odds to consider.

"The chances of getting struck by lightning is about 1 in 5,000 and this is about one in the hundreds of millions, I believe," said Sharpe.

It's approximately 1 in 175 million. So, you have a more likely chance of death by dog bite or vending machine. Still, that didn't keep the Sharpe family from going in on a corporation, which brings us to Sharpe's last bit of advice.

If you win, immediately spend your money on three things: A lawyer to keep people from cashing in on your jackpot, an estate planner to protect your future and of course, an accountant to manage your millions.

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