By Charlotte Van Campenhout
(Reuters) - Christmas came early for 165 people from the small northern Belgian village of Olmen who won 142,897,164 euros ($150.81 million) in the EuroMillions lottery this week, the biggest group win ever in Belgium.
Each individual will get almost 900,000 euros tax-free, EuroMillions spokesperson Joke Vermoere told Reuters.
She said it was the first time in Belgium that such a big group had won this much. "It's a lovely story, really."
The winners all chipped in 15 euros to a pot set up in a local store whose owners regularly organise a EuroMillions group buy, resulting in the occasional win but never a major jackpot.
"Many winning customers were in disbelief at first," said storekeeper Wim Van Broekhoven who was as stunned as his wife when they heard the winning numbers.
"We have had quite a few new customers since the big win, but no one in the village holds any grudges against the winners," Van Broekhoven said. "Everyone is genuinely happy for them."
Olmen has a total population of 3,785, according to latest data from 2020.
"The winners are from all walks of life, but regardless everyone can use the money, especially ahead of the holidays and with the current energy crisis."
One of the winners, a young woman in her 20s, will buy a small house for herself and her dogs, Van Broekhoven said, adding that with the amount of money she had won, the house didn't necessarily have to be small.
EuroMillions is a draw game of the National Lottery, organised in coordination with lotteries from France, Britain, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland and Luxemburg. ($1 = 0.9475 euros)
(Reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout; Editing by Crispian Balmer)