REGINA — When Yorkton resident Ernie Anuik regularly visited the store to check on his lottery tickets, he didn’t expect to see the celebratory message on the kiosk he received.
Anuik is the newest Lotto Max jackpot winner, scooping a $20 million prize in the Feb. 15 draw.
Sask Lotteries had indicated that the winning ticket for this jackpot was purchased somewhere in the province outside of Saskatoon or Regina, but Anuik said he did not assume that ticket could be his.
“I’ve always been an optimistic person, but that doesn’t mean I expected this kind of thing,” Anuik said.
Anuik, a now-retired civil servant, said he scanned his winning ticket three times at the self-checking kiosk at the local Shoppers Drug Mart, where he also purchased the ticket, without processing the amount he had. won.
“It was kind of a surreal moment,” Anuik said. “He said, ‘looks like you won’, then a two and a lot of zeros.”
He then called his son, Jason, to check the ticket as well before heading to the store clerk to validate the win. Anuik said he still hasn’t figured out exactly how much money he’s made, but the moment was – and remains – very exciting.
“I only phoned my four sons [afterwards] and I think they thought I was pulling their leg, trying to pull them up, but eventually it sank,” Anuik said.
As a fundraising entity, Sask Lotteries supports approximately 12,000 sporting, cultural and recreational programs across the province. Anuik said he had been an avid buyer of lottery tickets for decades and remembered his sons using some of the sports programs supported by Sask Lotteries as children.
“Over the years I’ve bought a lot of tickets because Sask Lotteries supports our kids,” Anuik said. “[My sons] practiced various sports, such as swimming and kayaking, and I always considered it a gift in return.
He’s won on lottery tickets before, including a win with colleagues in Moose Jaw that won him $80 and $6,800 on a Western Max ticket in 2011 – but nothing like his jackpot today.
Anuik said he doesn’t have any concrete plans for his earnings yet, but is talking to a financial planner to decide things for the future.
“I think if this had happened 20 years ago or whatever, it would have been a totally different story,” laughed Anuik.
Saskatchewan has hosted several big lottery winners in recent months, including a $55 million win in Saskatoon in October and another $50 million win in Saskatoon in January.
But the amount Anuik won certainly tops the pack, ranking as the sixth-largest lottery win by a Saskatchewan resident.
Sask Lotteries said the odds of winning the jackpot were one in 33 million, after it happened more than three times while waiting for a winning ticket.
Lotteries vice-president Michael Rogers said while Saskatchewan may seem like it’s on a roll, winning the lottery remains the same game of chance it always has been.
He said that although it seems residents are buying more lottery tickets over the past year, this influx will not change the chances of each jackpot.
“The odds are the same, whatever they are with every new draw,” Rogers said. “But we will take advantage of it, as we proceed as a province, and go from there.”