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Rural Mission Man Wins 9th Largest Powerball Jackpot

For Immediate Release: 6/5/2009

Pierre, S.D. – Neal Wanless of rural Mission today claimed the 9th largest Powerball jackpot won in the history of the multi-state lottery game.

The 23-year-old rancher appeared with South Dakota Lottery officials at an award ceremony in Pierre after claiming the $232.1 million he won in the May 27 drawing. 

Wanless chose to receive the jackpot as a one-time cash prize of $118,005,530.  After federal tax withholding, he will receive a prize payment $88,504,147, not including another $100 he won on the same ticket.

The jackpot- winning numbers represent the day and month of family members’ birthdays. The lucky combination was the fourth of five plays on a $5 ticket.

The winning ticket was purchased at the Ampride store in Winner.  Wanless and his family stop at the store when they make the 35-mile trip to Winner to buy feed.  The store will receive a $50,000 bonus for selling the lucky ticket.

On the night of Wednesday, May 27, Neal joked with his parents, Arlen and Nancy, about his Powerball tickets and needing to drive to Pierre the next day “to deposit a big check”.  He didn’t discover until the next morning that the whimsical remark would prove foretelling.

Neal checked the Lottery’s Web site for the winning numbers on Thursday morning.  He first checked the Powerball number, knew it matched a play on the ticket, and checked the white ball numbers.  Then he sat and stared at the computer screen.  “I was in shock,” he said.  “I don’t remember what I said.”  His dad remembers.  “He whispered real quiet ‘we won,’” Arlen said.

The rest of that day is somewhat of a blur for the family.  They told a few friends and family, and contacted the Lottery to figure out what needed to be done next.  “It’s just something you don’t believe could happen to you,” Nancy said.

The excitement of winning affected them differently that first night.  “I slept just fine,” Neal said.  “We didn’t,” Arlen replied, as he and Nancy laughed. They all agree that the experience has been both fun and a bit nerve-racking.

Since then, Neal has kept busy working on the family ranch, some 11 miles east of Mission.  A tractor needed to be picked up from the shop, a baler fixed, and other preparations made to put up hay in coming days.

That’s just what Neal intends to continue doing.  Ranching, he says, is something he’s always dreamed of doing.  “I just want to go home and ranch and ride horse and check cows.” 

But, he says he’s also dreamed of doing it on a little bigger ranch.  While out riding his horse, Eleanor, recently he’d thought to himself, and remarked to Eleanor, that “It’d be nice if we could go for a longer ride than usual on a bigger ranch of our own.”


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