RALEIGH – Tuesday night, after a shift working as a bowling pin setter mechanic, James Weller gave his grandmother $20 to buy him a lottery ticket. The next morning, the Charlotte man found out he’d won the prize of a lifetime: $50,000 a year for life.
“She’s lucky,” Weller said of his grandmother, Elizabeth. “I’m not lucky. She picked out the right ticket.”
The ticket was a $200,000 a Year for Life scratch-off from the 7-Eleven at 3800 Central Avenue in Charlotte. She bought it around 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, scratched it off, and was shocked to see the prize.
“You better check your ticket out,” Weller recalled his grandmother saying, her hand shaking with excitement. Weller said he checked the ticket over and over before going online to find out more about the prize.
Weller will receive a check for $50,000 every year for the rest of his life. The game guarantees the prize to a winner or his estate for at least 20 years, making the prize worth a minimum of $1 million. At 37, Weller hopes the prize is worth much more.
“I have to figure out a way to live to be 100,” he said as he collected his winnings at lottery headquarters with his grandmother. “We’ll be out of debt and won’t really have anything to worry about ever again. But of course I’ll still be working.”
Weller’s plans for his first check, worth $34,006 after taxes, included playing more golf and fixing up his truck. He also said his grandmother would share in the good fortune.
“Grandma’s getting a new car and she wants to go to Hawaii,” Weller added.
The $200,000 a Year for Life game launched Jan. 25, 2011. With Weller’s win, one prize of $50,000 a year for life and one top prize of $200,000 a year for life remain unclaimed in the game.
Since the lottery began through June 30, 2011, Mecklenburg County education programs received more than $167.3 million in lottery funds. By law, those funds pay for teachers’ salaries in grades K-3, school construction, pre-kindergarten programs for at-risk four-year-olds, and need-based college scholarships and financial aid.
To date, the N.C. Education Lottery has raised more than $2.45 billion for these initiatives statewide.