As it often did at such family gatherings, talk at a Saturday barbecue turned to the riches dangling from North Carolina’s state lottery.
“Every time the family gets together, the guys start speculating about jackpots,” said Mai Khou Vang, from Landis.
Seventeen brothers, sisters and cousins, all ethnic Hmong whose families settled in North Carolina from Laos and Vietnam, pooled their money and bought Cash 5 tickets at Cubbard Express on U.S. 321 NW in Hickory that June 3 night.
Now they’re splitting a record Cash 5 jackpot of $1,701,813.
“We checked them early the next morning,” said Vang, who serves as a spokeswoman for the family, told lottery officials for a news release on the jackpot. “That’s when we started calling each other.”
The odds of winning a Cash 5 jackpot are 1 in 749,398, the state lottery says. Initial reactions among the winners were of disbelief.
“I just said, ‘Get out of here. No way!’ ” Yer Lo of Hickory said when he found out one of the tickets matched all five numbers.
“At first I thought they were playing tricks on me,” added John Lee of Hickory. “I can’t believe we actually won.”
Family members, most of whom live in Hickory, claimed their prizes Friday and split the $1.7 million 17 ways. After state and federal tax withholding, they each took home between $23,655 and the $248,383 Chia Yang of Morganton scored. Most other family members netted $47,311.
The Hmong are an ethnic group from the mountains of China, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Thousands fought alongside U.S. troops in Vietnam and sought refuge here after the war.
Kong Hmoov Brandon Lor of Hickory will use his share to help attend UNC Charlotte this fall, where he plans to study biology. Others will pay bills, buy a new truck or travel.
Spencer Lo of Hickory plans to take his wife to Laos.
“It’s been 37 years since I’ve been back,” Lo said. “We want to see our cousins and friends. I miss that country.”