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What to expect if you win the lottery

Besides potentially being life-changing rich
Biggest lottery jackpot in Cdn history up for grabs tonight
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Every day is like Christmas at the offices of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

Millions of people win millions of dollars every year and the OLG gets to show them the money, oftentimes really big money. 

"Any amount of money is a life-changing amount of money," said Tony Bitonti, Senior Manager of Media Relations at OLG.

"When you're getting into the multi-million dollar prizes, that is life-changing for generations."

Bitonti says the first thing you need to do when playing the lottery is sign your ticket when you buy it in case it gets lost.

You can check tickets on the OLG website or a new mobile app, but Bitonti says most customers go to retailers.

The ticket data goes though a terminal and if it's a winner - well, you know the sound - and the prize appears on the screen. 

"If the win is more than $5,000, the bells and whistles will go off and the terminal will freeze which means no other transactions can happen. Automatically the computer system contacts our support centre and within 30 seconds to a minute the support centre contacts that retailer," Bitonti explains.

"It's very, very quick. With that initial phone call, we want to try to talk to the winner -  if they haven't run out of the store screaming and yelling, which at times they have done."

The prize centre advises the lucky ticket holder of next steps and winners get a receipt saying 'big win' that they must bring to the prize centre in Toronto along with the ticket and two pieces of government photo identification. 

Staff at OLG media relations don't normally get to experience that heart-pounding moment when customers learn they've won.

But lately, some winners who have checked tickets in advance, have been recording the moment on their smart phones. 

"They're showing us those videos which is wonderful because we don't get to see the actual win. Our support centre folks get to hear  that moment at validation where they actually see the amount coming up on the screen and hearing all the bells and whistles," said Bitonti. 

Anything over a thousand dollars or more you must attend the OLG Prize Centre in Toronto to claim your prize.

In some cases, you can collect a prize at the closest casino or slot facility, especially in remote locations.

There are forms to fill out and a prize claim review interview. 

"For us it determines ownership of that ticket because we know exactly where the ticket was purchased, the time it was purchased, with what other (lottery) products it was purchased with. The one piece of info we do not know is the name of the ticket buyer," said Bitonti. 

If there's any question about ownership, a more extensive investigation is launched along with 'insider' wins where a relative of a lotto retailer wins a prize.  

"If everything is clear then you will get paid, sometimes that day if its a smaller prize - under $25 million," jokes Bitonti, laughing. 

"Because 25 or more you get a wire transfer to your bank which takes 24 to 48 hours."

Everyone who has won a thousand dollars or more gets their picture taken. 

"The picture serves a couple of purposes. The primary purpose is for the integrity to show people that someone has won," Bitonti explains. 

"The number one question we get a lot of time is 'nobody wins in my community or area. I don't know anyone that's won the lottery.'' But we know that lottery winners are from all communities big and small across Ontario."

Names of all lottery winners of $1,000 or more are posted on the OLG website for 30 days.

The media relations unit has 30 days to publicize that winner's name and their picture but they don't do it for every winner.

If winners sign an optional audio visual marketing form, the unit can use their pictures in upcoming campaigns past that 30 days.

Bitonti says it's a fallacy that strangers come forward begging for money because it's usually family members who want a share to of the win.

It's the winners' stories that are so memorable. 

"What they want to do with their prize money. Sometimes its a great story about how they bought the ticket. We have millions of winners and millions of stories about our winners." 

Many plan to travel, pay off bills, mortgages or put down-payments on houses. 

A lot of big winners want to start charitable foundations because they know their $50 - $60 million dollars is life changing.

"One of our winners actually said 'This is going to change my great, great grandchildrens' lives.  I never thought of it that way. There's so much money there and they'll do the proper investing.  It will go down the line and will impact in some way their great grandchildren."

"For every winner there is a different, unique story."