By Dan Wiessner
SCHENECTADY, New York (Reuters) - Seven state workers who won the $319 million Mega Millions lottery said on Thursday they're still deciding whether to split it with five unlucky co-workers who chose not to play this time around.
Three women and four men who work as IT specialists and program managers at the New York Division of Housing and Community Renewal and live in the Albany suburbs came forward to claim the fifth largest Mega Millions prize in history.
The so-called "Albany Seven" elected to take a lump sum payout, which amounts to $19 million after taxes each.
They are among a group of 12 colleagues who for the past four years have pooled their money in the hopes of winning the biggest jackpot game in the United States. Five of them, however, bowed out of the March 25 purchase - which turned out to be the lucky ticket.
"Some of us got in and some of us didn't," said Gabrielle Mahar, 29, of Colonie, who heeded a long-time lottery motto, "You've got to play to win." Her dream purchase, she said, was a dishwasher.
The winners said they have not yet decided whether to share their winnings with the five who missed out.
While none of them went to work this week, the seven co-workers still have not decided whether to retire. One winner said staff training underway for years as part of a state emergency preparedness exercise left him assured that "the people who are there are very capable of picking up if we choose not to return."
Offering a blow-by-blow account of the purchase of the lucky ticket, the workers took turns speaking at a press conference at New York State Lottery headquarters.
Mike Barth, 63, of Bethlehem said he was all set to buy the ticket at a convenience store when he shifted out of the checkout line to reach for a Snickers Dark candy bar. The man behind him then stepped in front of him.
"I didn't say anything because I wanted to be nice," Barth said. "And later I was thinking, 'Maybe that guy would have won.'"
While not exactly a Wonka Bar containing the Golden Ticket, the fated candy bar will always hold a sweet spot for Barth. So, too, does the shopper who cut in front of him, he said, offering the official New York Lottery slogan in condolence, "Hey, you never know..."
The winning numbers were 22-24-31-52-54 and the Mega ball was 4.
Mega Millions drawings are held on Tuesday and Friday nights. Five balls are drawn from a set of balls numbered 1 to 56; one ball is drawn from a set of balls numbered 1 to 46.
Aside from Barth and Mahar, the winners include John Hilton, 57, of North Greenbush; John Kutey, 54, of Green Island; Tracy Sussman, 41, of Colonie; Kristen Baldwin, 42, of Clifton Park and Leon Peck, 62, of Johnstown.
(Reporting by Dan Wiessner, additional reporting by Aman Ali; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)