Couple who won $50M thought they only won $50K
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, February 29, 2012 5:26PM EST
TORONTO - All they wanted was a little money to renovate the bathroom and kitchen, but an eastern Ontario couple won collected a $50-million lottery jackpot Wednesday say they're buying a whole new house.
JoAnn and Gaetan Champagne of Hawkesbury, Ont., initially misread the results of their Lotto Max win and thought they were getting $50,000.
When they realized the prize was in millions, they were dumbfounded.
"My heart kept going. I said, '$50,000, that was gone.' I knew the bathroom and the kitchen cupboards had to be done, so that would have been gone," said JoAnn Champagne.
"Then $50 million -- that's when I grabbed the counter in the store."
She and her husband have since put a down payment on a new house, invested in their son's restaurant, and plan to donate to their local hospital and food bank.
Gaetan, 51, also picked up a 2012 Lincoln, which he joked was a "reasonable" car option.
The couple collected their money Wednesday in Toronto, two months after winning the Dec. 30 draw.
Their prize claim had to go through a routine review required by Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. because they had worked as lottery retailers the previous year and were considered so-called insiders.
"It was a little bit long to wait, but it was OK, we knew we played by the rules," said JoAnn, 49.
"I'd rather people know that we won fair and square."
The Champagnes had owned and operated Jo's Depanneur in Hawkesbury, about midway between Ottawa and Montreal, for 12 years, until they got tired of working seven days a week and sold it last October.
The long-time lottery players were well aware of all the gaming corporation's policies, however, and had immediately identified themselves as retailers.
"They followed the rules," said OLG spokesman Tony Bitonti. "They identified themselves as retailers, so they had to go through this process that everyone who identifies themselves as an insider has to go through."
Under OLG policy, retailers cannot buy, check or redeem their own tickets at their place of work but are allowed to play at other retail locations.
The winning ticket for the Dec. 30 jackpot was purchased at a Pharmaprix store in Hawkesbury, the french equivalent of Shoppers Drug Mart, and checked at a different store.
JoAnn bought it during a post-Christmas trip to the drugstore to stock up on some bargains, and it was later validated in the Ottawa area.
She's still buying lottery tickets and playing the numbers she's bet on for the last 30 years, which were actually not the ones she won on. She continues to volunteer at her son's restaurant as a bus girl and dishwasher, she jokes, because she's "cheap labour."
"I was shooting for Freedom 55, it just came a little bit earlier," she said.