August 31st, 2012
02:50 PM ET

$337M Powerball winner plans to keep it real

Donald Lawson intends to do the typical lottery-winner stuff: Retire, take care of his family, travel, get a new place to live.

But the 44-year-old Michigan man insists his $337 million Powerball prize the third-largest in Powerball history, and seventh-largest jackpot in U.S. history won’t change him.

“I’m a millionaire now, but I’ll still go to McDonald’s,” Lawson told reporters Friday at the Michigan Lottery headquarters in Lansing, where he came forward to collect on the August 15 drawing. “I don’t like filet mignon or lobster. I like the simple life, and that’s what I want to continue to do.”

Lawson, of Lapeer, was the sole winner of the August 15 prize. He chose the lump-sum cash option, which gives him $224.6 million, before tax, at once.

He said he quit his railroad engineer job after learning he won. He said he chose the winning numbers 6, 27, 46, 51, 56 with a powerball of 21 himself at a Sunoco gas station in Lapeer.

“I walked into the … station, and usually there ain’t nobody up there, but there was a long line. But something from above I do have to credit that told me to go over there and pick my own numbers. I didn’t pick them my hand just went,” Lawson said.

Lawson said his two children will now be set for college, and he told his close relatives to retire, “and they had no problem with that.”

He said he plans to travel a lot, but for now, he’s going to “go somewhere safe and think about (what to do) and go from there.”

“This money won’t last forever unless I use it right and budget it right. It’s not a lot, $337 million,” he joked, drawing laughter, before addressing the issue of taxes. “You all think it’s tremendous amount, but I’m kind of pissed at Uncle Sam … you know?”

Eight other tickets won the $1 million Match 5 prize on August 15. Two of those tickets were bought in Indiana, and the others in Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Virginia, lottery officials said.

The game's largest prize to date was $365 million, which was awarded in 2006 to a group of eight co-workers at a Nebraska meat-packing plant.

That record drawing happened when the cost for a Powerball ticket was $1. In January, the price increased to $2, with officials saying it would lead to an increased number of large jackpots. At the same time, the odds improved somewhat because officials reduced the number of red balls, the powerballs, from 39 to 35.

At $337 million, the Powerball pot still has ways to go to catch MegaMillions at the top of the list of U.S. grand prizes. In March, three tickets were sold for a drawing with the top prize of $656 million.

– CNN's Chris Boyette contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Lotto • Michigan
soundoff (648 Responses)
  1. gmenfan54

    This guy keeps eating at McDonalds he won't live long enough to enjoy his money.

    September 1, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Deborah, West Plains, Mo.

    Congratulations to Donald and his family!! We live in such a wonderful country with so.............many kind people! God Bless!

    September 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Chris

    To each his own. Congrats on the amazing windfall.

    September 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. catady

    I hope Mr. Lawson uses his money wisely. He will have friends and relatives he knew he never had.

    September 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lefty Capuccino

    If he wants to live a long life and enjoy his incredible good fortune, my advice would be to not eat McDonalds

    September 1, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Becca

      YeP! My advice too. But if I did not eat Filet Mignon & Lobster it would not take uch fo me to like it for sure. And I may just help my mom and dad out And a animal rescue and my children but no one else. So many long lost family members will apear from no where. It is a ral shame what some people do with the winnings. I hope he thinks real hard and gets someone to help him that is not a scam artist. Good Luck to him and I wish him well.

      September 1, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. RW7

    You Americans are getting scammed by the government. $337 million drops to $224 million if you want lump sum. Then lets say 40% tax on that and you're left with $134 million. In Canada you get it all tax free. Mind you $134 million is still a massive amount of money but that other $200 million lost to the government is a killer.

    September 1, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeramy

      Several issues with your post. A $337 million jackpot is a $337 million jackpot, if you take it as 26 year annuity. The cash value option is the amount the lottery pool has on hand at the moment. That's why the winner is given an option. If you're not smart enough to know the difference, tough luck.

      I'm not sure where you get a 40% tax from, the federal gov't withholds 25%. The state where the winner bought the ticket also withholds the maximum rate for their respective state (if applicable, not all states have an income tax) It's still income and it should still be subjected to taxation just like the guy who makes $15 per hour. And wouldn't it be wiser to have a larger portion taxed upfront rather than being left with a massive, maybe unexpected tax liability the following year?

      And considering a guy like Romney can get his tax rate down to 13% wouldn't it be safe to assume the lottery winner if they made smart tax moves could get his tax rate that low and get a large portion of that money refunded?

      September 1, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Alina1

    He will blow it in 123...

    September 1, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. angela

    I am happy for him. I hope he sets up a foundation with some of his earnings to help those who are in desperate need. Alot of good can come from alot of money. He was blessed for a reason.

    September 1, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. brown

    Check back on this silly guy in one year ... he will be a completely different person.

    September 1, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. lulu

    sounds like a sweet guy! most people would not share with family eventhough that is a large sum. I think its nice he wants to keep it simple and real. sounds like he has a good head on his shoulders and understands that he needs to be wise with it. I hope he starts a business or something so the money will stretch a little. I'm sure he'll get a personal trainer and get more fit. What else is he going to do with all that free time?

    September 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Golden Arches

    Why don't he just buy his owm McDonalds then he could live there.

    September 1, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jessie

    Wait – according to Republicans, all the wealthy people shouldn't be taxed more because they are creating jobs for our economy. I look forward to hearing about all the wonderful jobs this guy is going to create with his $200+M windfall.

    September 1, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mary

    Oh good, then his family can afford a real nice casket when he drops dead of a cholesterol induced heart-attack.

    September 1, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • LizardLance

      Oh Mary full of grace, buy a Big Mac and stuff your face!

      September 2, 2012 at 4:31 am | Report abuse |
    • hannah1

      You're absoutely right Mary. He looks like he's off to a super-size start, too.

      September 2, 2012 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
    • JPX

      Perhaps he should use his windfall to make better choices in his life such as healthy eating and exercise.? Only dumb people play the lottery. Follow up with this guy in 10 years and all the money will be gone.

      September 2, 2012 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Buckshot

      Mary, there are a lot bad things I would like to say about you and your asinine comment, but they wouldn"t appear.

      September 2, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  14. asdf

    See in this case money cant bring him health, sophistication or a higher cultural appreciation.

    September 1, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • mary robinson

      yeah, and a down to earth mentality.

      September 1, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • scott

      eat mc donalds still,nothing will change,then why did he play then..need to get smarter man..

      September 2, 2012 at 6:03 am | Report abuse |
  15. Franchise Today! Ltd.

    He could always buy a McDonald's.

    September 1, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
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