WEST BABYLON, N.Y. – A New York construction worker who won $1 million in a lottery scratch-off game four years ago has defied enormous odds by hitting a $1 million jackpot again on a different game.
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But don't call him lucky.
After Bruce Magistro hit the jackpot the first time, his wife, Yvonne, lost a three-year battle with cancer. Much of the prize money went to pay for her medical bills.
"She passed away two years ago today," Magistro's son, Nick Mayers, said Wednesday. He said he was sure the second jackpot was her way of sending help back to the family.
"This is definitely a gift, from her to him," Mayers said.
State lottery officials introduced Magistro at a news conference at the Long Island gas station where he bought the second winning ticket on April 11.
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Magistro said he plays the lottery every day, and usually buys $5 or $10 lottery tickets. But he said he had a spare $20 when he asked a clerk at Mike's Super Citgo in West Babylon for a set of 10 Win for Life scratch-offs.
"This is impossible," Magistro said he thought as he scratched off a lottery ticket and realized he won $1 million. "I just couldn't believe I hit it two times."
He now plans to share his winnings with his three children and his fiancé.
Magistro is a regular customer at the gas station and usually spends about $50 every time he buys lottery tickets, owner Mike Abizeid said. When Magistro won $1 million on a different lottery scratch-off game in 2012, he bought the ticket from Abizeid's brother, John, who owns a gas station nearby.
It was the first time Magistro had played the Win for Life game, which will pay him and his family $1,000 each week — with a minimum of $1 million — for the rest of his life.
Lottery representative Yolanda Vega, who had presented Magistro with a ceremonial check for his first win, said that even then she felt he could win a second time.
"He was so positive and outgoing that I knew he'd win again," she said. "There was something about Bruce that I felt. There was this energy coming from his core."
Magistro said he plans to use the money to pay his bills and go on a vacation, though he hasn't decided where just yet.
"Hopefully I'll win again," he joked. "Third time's a charm."
The probability of winning twice is "astronomical," and likely more than one in a billion chance, said Eugene Feinberg, a distinguished professor of applied mathematics and statistics at Stony Brook University. But, he said, calculating a precise number is difficult because the probability of winning increases every time you buy more tickets.
"The chances are very small," he said of striking it big twice in just a few years. "If you play more, you win more."
State gaming officials said the odds of someone winning the Win for Life grand prize — or $1,000 per week for life — are 1 in 7,745,600. The odds of Magistro winning Extreme Cash in 2012 were 1 in 2,520,000.
While it isn't common, Magistro is not alone when it comes to winning the lottery twice.
A North Carolina woman who is battling breast cancer won $1 million in a lottery game in February and then scored a $250,000 prize last month. Gina Short was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago and has been undergoing chemotherapy. She said earlier this month that winning a second time felt like a "second chance."
In 2012, a man in suburban Chicago won $1 million from the Illinois Lottery's "Merry Millionaire" instant scratch off game after winning the same amount nine years earlier. Two years earlier, an Illinois woman won $1 million in an instant cash jackpot game and then won the same prize six months later.