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Press release

October 6, 2001

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October, 2001 | Winners Stories | Northern California

Big Spin Contestant Wins First $3 Million Grand Prize


SACRAMENTO -- California Lottery's "The Big Spin®" show airs Saturday, October 6, 2001, in twelve television markets statewide. Contestants on this week's show won a total of $3,165,000.

Jim Hess, a supervisor for a PVC pipe company from Stockton, made Lottery history on this week's show. Hess became the first contestant to win the $3 million grand prize on the largest prize wheel in the world. Before his win, Hess planned to take his family, his wife and 5 children, on a wonderful vacation. After Hess became California's newest millionaire, he slightly revised his plans to include, not only the wonderful vacation, but also a new house, college funds for his school aged children and the offer for his older kids to go back to college if they wish. The feeling on the show was electric as Hess's family joined him on stage when host Pat Finn presented him with his oversized check. Will Hess buy anything frivolous with his newfound wealth? "I've always wanted a nice ski boat, I'll probably get that too." When asked what it feels like to make Lottery history, Hess explained, "I feel like I am the luckiest person in California and you don't get here by being a bad person."

Arthur Caponera, a retiree from San Bruno, was next up on this week's California Gold game. Caponera explained, "I'm going to help the children out and travel. I have 9 grandchildren I want to help them." His dream vacation would be to take a trip to Italy. Caponera won $75,000. California Gold is one way to get to the wheel on "The Big Spin"show. The game starts with 10 contestants whose Big Spin Scratchers® tickets each revealed three "TV SHOW" symbols on one ticket. When instructed, each player pushes down a "detonator" to reveal a prize ranging from $1,750 to $4,000. Two of those contestants will reveal gold nuggets and advance to the second round of play. Once there, they compete to see who can get the closest to 10 units of "gold nuggets" in their mining car without going over. The winner of this round goes to "The Big Spin" prize wheel, while the other contestant wins $5,000.

Jesse Villegas, a retiree from San Francisco was the lone contestant at the Dream Machine. When asked what he wants to do with his prize, Villegas explained, "I want to remodel my house and start investing." Villegas won $20,000. At the Fantasy 5 Dream Machine, players have up to five chances to launch one ball at a time into one of the five bins in the pinball-type game, each bin representing a cash amount. Prizes are cumulative, but only one ball may land in each bin to claim the prize amount. Players appearing on this segment qualify by mailing an entry form to the Lottery when $5 of Fantasy 5 games are purchased on one playslip.

Paula Carter, a behavior technician from San Jose and George Hibbs, a freight dispatcher from Placentia were the two contestants on the California Lottery's High Roller game. Carter was the finalist that went on to play the second round, which, according to host Pat Finn, is no surprise, seeing as he has met Paula Carter before. "You've been on our show before, right? You played California Gold?" Finn asked. Carter replied, "Yes, I played last year." Carter won $20,000 and . The High Roller Scratchers game is another way to get to the Big Spin TV show. Players who appeared on this week's High Roller segment bought a High Roller Scratchers ticket and found three stacks of bills on their $1 ticket. That entitled them to come on the show and try our newest segment! Here's how the High Roller Coaster segment is played: The High Roller Coaster game has six valleys, and the value of those valleys change with each of three rounds. Depending on how the contestants decide to play, they can walk away with up to $150,000.

The California Lottery sells its products through a network of more than 18,000 outlets statewide. The Lottery provides 52.7 percent of its revenues to players as prizes, 34.1 percent to public schools and 13.2 percent for administrative expenses, which includes 6.9 percent for retailer commissions. Since 1985, the Lottery has raised more than $12 billion for public schools. The Lottery's contribution equals approximately 2 percent of the state's total education budget. "The Big Spin®" is the longest running Lottery game show in the country, airing continuously since 1985.

Jim Hess Stockton $3,000,000
Leon Collins Inglewood $75,000
Sergio Garcia Sosa Santa Ana $20,000
Firas Anabtawi Moorpark $20,000
George Hibbs Placentia $5,000
Other California Gold Contestants   $45,000
  TOTAL $3,165,000
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See More Press Releases: October, 2001 | Winners Stories | Northern California