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Cash Option: Here's a look at what happens when a winning Kentucky Lottery ticket is redeemed

In 2019-2020 over 26,000 scholarships totaling over $40 million dollars went to Jefferson County high schoolers.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentuckians don't have to play the lottery to be a winner in the traditional sense. For the last 30 years, Kentucky high schoolers who get above a 2.5 GPA earn lottery proceeds for in-state college tuition through the KEES Scholarship Program.

The better they do in school, the more they earn.

One out five Kentuckians received grants and scholarships through lottery education assistance which is about $2.43 million in awards.

The odds of hitting a jackpot in the lottery is one in 300 million which can make the game less exciting for some of us when you inject logic.

In 2020, the Kentucky Lottery sold $1.6 billion worth of lottery tickets. 

They paid out a total of $808.3 million dollars to the people of Kentucky. The majority of payouts are small as in $5 or $10 dollar winners. 

In 2019-2020, over 26,000 scholarships totaling over $40 million dollars went to Jefferson County high schoolers.

If you're wondering...it's been more than a decade since the Bluegrass state has had a big jackpot lottery winner.

The winners circle

Imagine buying a lottery ticket and then finding yourself holding a piece of paper worth millions. Many of us fantasize about what happens next; maybe paying off debts, buying a house, a luxurious new car, or telling the boss to shove it.

When you win big in Kentucky, they don’t just hand over the cash. There's an entire process you have to go through, including mentorship.

We got an up-close and personal look at what really happens after someone claims their money. From physically doing the draw to telling Kentuckians the luck of the draw, Chip Polston has spent his life around millionaires.

Polston's name has been synonymous with the lottery for nearly 30 years now.

"I have been in this job for 17 years and for 12 years prior to that, I was the goodnight and good luck guy. I hosted the lottery drawings three nights a week, standing behind those lottery machines and got to call those numbers out,” Chip Polston reveals.

Becoming a millionaire overnight might feel like it would solve most of life's troubles, however, Polston said that's a perception. The reality is much different. 

“The initial reaction when they come in is not joy, it’s not excitement, it's fear. They’re scared to death when I first get them and I’m literally watching their life change right before my eyes."

According to Polston, the process includes paperwork, ticket validation and then some hard talks. 

"These four walls have been where we have brought all our winners of a million dollars or more to start the process.”

You could say, he's part of the team that gives winners 'the talk' on what to do next.

"Once we validate that ticket and make sure the ticket is all good, I’ll go in that winner’s room and I’ll shake hands with them, say, 'Congrats. Now, we need to call and change your home phone number and your cell phone number.'"

How the money is exchanged

The reality of the situation is after your press conference and 15 minutes of fame after you get home and after you change that number--you'll get a wire transfer into your bank account. 

It's probably a good idea to give the bank a heads up that it's coming.

"I really think there are some people who come in and think they’re going to slide the ticket under the window and were going to push big silver briefcases under the window in about five minutes. It does not work that way,” Polston said.

Time to get off the grid

Polston tells WHAS11 he challenges winners to keep up appearances at least for a little.

"I don’t care how much you win. If you quit your job and all you have to do is sit around all day and think of ways to spend money, you’re going to go through it. You’re gonna run through a lot of it. To maintain some sense of normalcy in your life, for at least six months, come up with a plan, put a team together, figure out how you're going to navigate this. It’s going to work out a whole lot better for you in the long run,” Polston advises.

Everyone wants a piece of a lottery winner, Polston warns. 

"Every real estate broker, car salesman and securities broker in an eight-state area is going to want to become your friend right now. It’s time to go underground.”

...'Good night and good luck.'

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