$232 Million South Dakota Powerball Winner Selling Ranch

Neal Wanless was a young cowboy barely making ends meet when he won a $232.1 million Powerball jackpot in 2009. Now the South Dakota resident is selling the nearly-50,000 acre ranch he bought with the winnings.

The jackpot was the largest ever won in South Dakota and one of the highest prizes hit by a single ticket in a US lottery. Wanless took the cash option and received $88.5 million as a single lump sum payment after withholdings.

The state has no income tax, which gave Wanless around $8 million more than a winner in, for example, Minnesota would have taken home.

The Bismarck Trail Ranch, around 10 miles east of Vale in Butte County, is listed for $41.15 million and is made up of four houses and many outbuildings. Wanless told the real estate agents, Hall & Hall, that he and his wife are spending more time at her family cattle ranch in Canada, and will head to a new house in Arizona for the winters.

At the time of his life-changing win, 23-year-old Wanless lived on his family's 320 acre-ranch in Mission in Todd County.  About 48% of the residents in the south-central area of the state live in poverty, one of the highest rates in the country.

The family were struggling in the midst of the financial crisis and sold scrap metal to get by, but their income took a hit when the price of iron dropped.

Times got tougher when the bank repossessed the family's mobile home - Wanless' parents and brother moved into a camper, while Neal continued to work on the ranch. “We were struggling,” he said.

After the win, neighbors commented on the family's hardscrabble existence. "They've been real short on finances for a long time," said farmer Dave Assman. "They are from real meager means, I guess you'd say."

"They work hard, backbreaking hard work," said friend family Cath Vrbka.

On a trip to the aptly-named town of Winner to buy animal feed, Wanless stopped for gas and picked up $15 worth of Powerball tickets.

When he claimed the prize, Wanless told South Dakota Lottery officials that he'd dreamed of buying his own property, and while riding his horse, Eleanor, he said to her, "It'd be nice if we could go for a longer ride than usual on a bigger ranch of our own."

He initially purchased 7,000 acres for around $9.9 million, and acquired more land over the years. The Bismarck Trail Ranch is named for the trail to Deadwood that hopeful would-be miners took during the Black Hills gold rush.

The property, 51 miles north of Rapid City, has around 42,000 deeded acres, 4,000 acres of grazing pasture leased from the Bureau of Land Management, and 1,600 acres leased from the state, said agent Robb Nelson.

3,000 yearlings, 1,600 cows and calves, and 1,000 wild horses call the ranch home. The terrain is well-irrigated and includes part of the Belle Fourche River bottom as well as extensive grazing land for the animals to roam.

The ranch now has two luxury homes, one for Wanless and his wife Jody, and one for his mother, plus a bunkhouse and ranch manager's house and many outbuildings. Wanless' house is around 6,500 square feet, with five bedrooms, an open-plan kitchen and living room with a stone fireplace, a games room, poker room, and screening room.

If the property sells for near the asking price, it will be one of the highest-priced ranches ever to sell in South Dakota. In 2015, CNN founder Ted Turner paid $32.4 million the famous Triple U Ranch, where much of the 1990 movie “Dances with Wolves” was filmed.

If you won Powerball, would you buy a dream home? The next chance to hit it big is Wednesday, September 16 for a $94 million jackpot, and you can get your tickets now.


Published: Monday, September 14, 2020
Updated: Monday, September 14, 2020