Jeff Sanders took chances racing dirt bikes until several serious accidents left him with a back injury that keeps him from working.
He also took chances buying $20 scratch-off lottery tickets until one of them paid off big time: the 38-year-old North Tonawanda resident got lucky in the $500,000,000 Extravaganza instant game, winning $50,000 a year for the next 20 years.
Sanders bought the lucky ticket at Wilson Farms at 2550 Millersport Highway, Getzville.
Now he doesn't have to worry so much about working.
"I've got a bad back, and I'll never have a pension, so this is a great break for me," Niagara County's first lottery millionaire of the year said Thursday.
The winner was introduced to the media by Susan Miller, deputy director of New York Lottery, and Paul Nanula, chief executive officer of Wilson Farms. Retail outlets receive 6 cents for every $1 in sold lottery tickets, but get no extra cut from big payoffs. Stores get $10,000 if they sell a MegaMillions jackpot ticket.
Sanders, who is married and has a young son, drives by the Wilson Farms in Getzville nearly every day on his way to visit his parents, who live nearby.
He said he buys Extravaganza tickets at $20 a pop because they offer better odds than many of the other instant games. The odds of winning $1 million -- in payouts of about $1,000 a week -- are one in 420,000, compared with, say, the $1,000-a-week Win for Life instant game, where the odds of winning the jackpot are one in 7.5 million.
"It's pretty amazing I won," Sanders said. "My wife was in shock."
Sanders said he sings and plays the guitar, and lists his occupation as independent salesman, but he didn't want to go into details. "Starting my own recording company would be a dream come true," he said.
"He comes in here all the time," said Barbara, a Wilson Farms clerk who didn't want to give her last name. "He bought $200 worth of tickets again today."
Sanders said he's going to keep buying the lucky scratch-off, because he's enthralled with the handsome odds, and he believes he can win again.
"I'm saving for the future," he said.
There have only been about a dozen million-dollar winners from Niagara County in the 40-year history of the State Lottery, Miller said. The country's largest lottery -- the sixth largest in the world -- has raised more than $30 billion toward education in the state, including a record $2.2 billion in fiscal 2005-06, she said.