GRAFTON, N.D. -- Layne Ensrude telephoned wife Wanda when word spread Friday morning of a $1.6 million lottery winning ticket being sold at Wally's Supermarket.
"Were we playing the Wild Card 2 game?" he wondered.
Alas, no, Wanda said. Their money was in the Hot Lotto.
But someone in the region was doing cartwheels after Friday's announcement that the winning ticket was sold at the grocery store. It's the largest prize ever awarded in the North Dakota Lottery.
"I'm sure everyone is curious who it is," Wanda said as the machine showed that her Hot Lotto play had won $2. "It sure would be a nice Christmas present."
It's the second bonanza in six weeks out of Wally's. On Oct. 14, the Powerball's $200,000 winner also purchased the ticket there.
"We're changing the logo and slogan on the front of our store," said Mike DeSautel, one of the owners. "Instead of calling ourselves the 'low-priced supermarket,' we're now calling ourselves 'the luckiest supermarket in the state.' "
The ticket is unclaimed. The winner can choose to remain anonymous, just as the $200,000 recipient did. The October winner hasn't come forward, but rumors are flying.
"It's a woman who lives in (neighboring) Hoople," an elderly man said at the Wally's service counter. Told that the state lottery office reported that the winner had a Grafton address, he gruffly answered, "Well, she must have used her boyfriend's address."
A Wally's clerk said she doesn't know the person's name but does know his face. "He came by and gave me a $50 tip, saying he was pretty sure I was the one who sold it to him," she said.
They were both too shy to reveal their names, as the $1.6 million winner likely will be, too. Only about one-fourth of major winners are willing to go public, said Randy Miller, the state's lottery director.
"I think it's great," said Carl Snider, a regular lottery player from Grafton. "I'm glad that someone won a big jackpot from here in the state."
The ticket needs to be verified in Bismarck, so it's unlikely the lucky person will stop by Wally's unless he/she is unaware of the winning numbers. Winning the jackpot requires matching all five numbers from a pool of 31 and one playing card from a pool of 16. The winning combination was: 2, 6, 7, 20 and 29 and the Jack of Spades.
After taxes, the winning ticket will net about $1.1 million. The winner has 180 days to collect.
"Something like this happening here in Grafton makes you more optimistic that you have a chance," Ensrude said.
Wild Card 2 game is shared among North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Idaho. It starts with a jackpot of $100,000 and grows until there's a winner. The last Wild Card 2 jackpot earned $125,000 for three employees of a coffee shop in Steele, N.D, in April.
Tickets can be checked by visiting a participating retailer, logging on to www.lottery.nd.gov or calling (701) 328-1111.
DeSautel said the winner could be the result of a brighter economic outlook.
"I noticed that lottery ticket sales definitely slowed down as the economy slowed down," he said. "But in the last two-three months, I've noticed a spike upward in sales again. I'm assuming the economy is a little better or at least that people are feeling a little better about it."
Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.