Spontaneous office pool wins $543m lottery jackpot

A group of California co-workers who decided to play the lottery on a whim won last month's $543m Mega Millions jackpot, the largest prize ever on a single state ticket, the California Lottery said on Friday.

The 11 co-workers who work in the financial industry in the San Francisco Bay Area said they don't have a regular lottery pool but decided to chip in $2 a piece when they heard how big the jackpot had become, the Lottery said in a news release on Friday.

"It was spur of the moment," said Roland Reyes, the only person among the co-workers whose name has been released, the Lottery said.

" 'Hey, did you hear about the jackpot? We should play,' " Reyes said, according to the Lottery.

Reyes and his newly multimillionaire co-workers, who range in age from 21 to 60, claimed the prize the day after the July 24 draw, the Lottery said.

Remarkably, Reyes said he and his co-workers plan on keeping their jobs, though they declined to specify where the group works.

"We love that company," he said. "We love what we've built there. We have a good time and want to stay together."

The group can take $543m over 30 years or a lump-sum option of $320.5m. Both options are before taxes.

They have declined to speak to reporters or be photographed.

Ernie's Liquor in San Jose, where Reyes bought the winning ticket, gets $1m for its role in the jackpot.