KEESEVILLE - A Wilmington man celebrated winning a $3 million jackpot lottery prize on Thursday at a diner here where he bought the lucky ticket.
Doug Smith stops by McLean's Family Restaurant on Route 9 a couple of times a week to have breakfast, but he doesn't normally play scratch-off tickets. Smith scratched the winning ticket back on April 9 and kept the win a secret for more than a month. It was part of the "$100 Million Payout" game, and when he scratched it off, there was the word "jackpot."
"It's surreal," Smith said. "I don't know if I deserve this."
Gretchen Dizer of the New York State Lottery explains that Doug Smith of Wilmington won $3 million from a scratch-off ticket he bought at McLean’s Family Restaurant in Keeseville.
(Photo — Matthew Turner)
Several friends and local people were eating in the diner on Thursday. One woman shouted back at him, 'You deserve it.'
Smith works for Frontier Communications where he repairs and installs data lines. He transfered here from Watertown three years ago. He's 53 years old and isn't married.
"Is it true you're going to buy steak diners for everybody here?" Ed Venette of Keeseville joked at the diner's table.
"He's a very deserving guy," said Venette who eats at the diner often and knows Smith. "I come here every day, twice a day."
The day Smith won the money, Tammy Atkins, the restaurant manager, bought Smith and a couple of his friends breakfast.
"We've been open since 1970, and this is the most exciting thing that ever happened to us," Atkins said.
The diner here sells lottery tickets as another source of income, Atkins said. He and the guys eating with him left some money on the counter for a local charity group, and then Smith suddenly decided to buy the lottery tickets.
"It was an impulse buy," Smith said.
He bought two $10 tickets and took them tickets to his work office before scratching them.
"I really thought it couldn't be," Smith said. "I looked at it several times. I called my brother and said, 'I think I'm having a good day.'"
Smith then took the ticket to a nearby gas station to have it verified. The woman behind the counter gave him a hug after she told him he really did win the jackpot. Smith then gave her a $100 bill, he said.
Smith opted to have the cash lump-sum payment, which totaled $2,270,000. After taxes he will walk away with $1,502,286, lottery officials said.
When asked what he will do with the money, Smith said he doesn't know.
"Only when I didn't win I had great ideas; I don't know now," Smith said.
He plans to "lock the money down" for six months to a year before spending it.
"I am going to educate myself about high finances," Smith said.
He was unsure on Thursday whether or not he would continue to work, saying he had to think about it because he had a good job.
Smith is the fifth person from Essex County to win more than $1 million playing the state lottery. Among the more recent ones, Michael Vice of Ticonderoga won $5 million in 2010 from the Set for Life game, and James Velsini of Mineville won $1 million in 2013 from a Fabulous Fortune ticket.