By David Highfield

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For some people, it’s a dream come true to win the lottery. But what’s it really like to win big?

A trip to lottery headquarters in Harrisburg revealed a place called The Winner’s Circle, a room where only winners normally go.

People with winning tickets who arrive at headquarters first meet with someone from the claims department. They’re asked to sign the ticket, since it’s considered a legal document. The claims employee takes your driver’s license and disappears to validate your ticket.

Once validated, you meet with Gary Miller if you agree to do some publicity.

That’s when you’re led into The Winner’s Circle.

“This is the room where lottery claimants lives change. This is the room where it sinks in that things are about to get very interesting for you,” said Miller.

The room has vintage lottery machines, a big backdrop for lottery photos and pictures of previous winners. It’s a room where emotion often spills over.

“Everything happens here in The Winners Circle. You get laughing. You get crying. I had a winner hyperventilate once and had to take them to the parking lot to walk it off,” said Miller.

Carl and Janet Szott, of White Oak, know about The Winner’s Circle: They won a Mega Millions jackpot and took home almost $87 million.

They did a news conference, but Miller says: “You’re under no obligation to do a news conference if you’re a jackpot winner.”

However, he says most jackpot winners want to do one to get the publicity out of the way.

While winners names are public record, only a first name and last initial are listed on the lottery website to protect them from scammers.

While you get to pose with a big souvenir check, you generally don’t get the real check for four to six weeks later. There is a celebratory mood, but there is no balloon drop, confetti or cocktails in The Winner’s Circle. As Miller says, it is a government agency.

One more thing to note: They deduct 25 percent for federal taxes right off the top. They also deduct anything a winner might owe for delinquent child support.

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