The lasting words of one of Britain’s most famous writers, William Shakespeare. The winning of the lottery represents the ‘American Dream’, the achieving of better, richer and happier life, but does the sheer quantity of money mean that winners’ lives are ruined as opposed to improved?
This week the body of a lottery winner was found buried in Florida. The victim was ironically named Abraham Shakespeare, and he had won $17m in 2006. The police believe that Mr. Shakespeare was murdered after his body was found in the backyard of a home belonging to the boyfriend of a woman who befriended him after his win. His brother, Robert Brown, said he often wished he had never won, “‘I’d have been better off broke. He said that to me all the time.”
You may think that this is a one-off case, however, little under 3 weeks ago Britain’s youngest lottery jackpot winner was found dead in his home, and although this time the police did not believe the circumstances surrounding his death were suspicious, he was said to have become a “virtual recluse” since his win, his Bebo page saying that he was scared of socialising and enjoyed “basically, anything that involves not leaving the house.”
Two countries, two vulnerable members of society that received millions of pounds, both of whom were unable to mentally deal with the consequences of their winnings.
The news is not all bad, however. Many winners are able to enjoy their winnings and create a better life for themselves and their family. Jennifer Southall, a cinema supervisor on £5.85 an hour, bagged an 8-million jackpot which she then used to treat her and her sons to a £1 million spending spree which included two new houses, holidays and a new car – things that she would never have been able to afford or enjoy had it not been for her win.
And Yorkshire mum-of-five Jane Surtees who, despite winning £7.5 million, vowed to carry on shopping at Primark and New Look. She was also determined to bring her children up knowing the value of money, which is admirable her new found position.
Two families living on the breadline, who were able to experience a life that they would not have been able to experience had it not been for the lottery.
With the National Lottery having created 2,200 millionaires and 7/10 of the adult population playing on a regular basis, the lottery is big business in Britain. And despite the amount of money involved, the Camelot Group that runs the lottery has remained socially responsible with £24 billion being raised for good causes, and let’s not forget the staggering £750 million that they are raising towards the costs of the Olympics. They also support winners and help them to decide how to deal with their winnings. Despite this, should the National Lottery be made to take more responsibility for people playing their games and warn people of the risks that come with extreme wealth?
Many of you are already mentally spending the money. However, the question remains: do people take the consequences of winning millions of pounds into account when choosing to play the lottery? How many of you would continue with your degree if you were to win? And how would people’s view of you change if you were to win, could you live with not knowing if your friends were real friends after the luxuries that come with wealth?
Before bypassing these questions with nonchalance, spare a thought for the Shakespearian tragedy.
Below are 8 winners from around the world whose dream turned sour:
1. Former security guard John Roberts won £3.5m in 1998 but ended up living in a caravan with debts of £20,000. His marriage failed, his £300,000 home was repossessed, and after buying 40 cars he now owns a battered L-reg Rover.
2. Wayne Thompson, 34, became an alcoholic after squandering his share of a £2.5m jackpot on beer. He downed up to 24 pints a night after winning £125,000 in a works syndicate in 1999, then spent £36,000 on rehab at the Priory clinic to beat his addiction.
3. William Post won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988. He later described the experience as a nightmare and wishes it had never happened. He was sued by a former girlfriend eager to get her hands on the cash and his brother hired a hit man in the hope of inheriting his winnings. He invested in ill-fated family businesses and within a year was $1m in debt. He now lives on social security payments.
4. Luke Pittard from Wales won a £1.3m on the National Lottery. After a lavish holiday, wedding and new home were purchased, he got bored and returned to work at McDonald’s.
5. An unnamed Sicilian won £79m on the Italian lottery in 2008. Before he or she could even collect the winnings consumer groups were demanding that the windfall be seized by the government. The winner has since gone into hiding, fearing the Mafia will come calling.
6. Janite Lee from Missouri won $18 million in 1993. She showed her generosity by giving money to a variety of political, educational and community causes – but just eight years later she filed for bankruptcy.
7. Willie Hurt won $3.1 million in 1989. Two years later the money was gone and he was on a murder charge. Hurt spent his fortune on a divorce and crack cocaine.
And finally….you don’t even have to win:
8. In 1995, Timothy O’Brien committed suicide by shooting himself in the head because he believed he has missed out on a £2.7 million jackpot after forgetting to renew the ticket. It later emerged that he made an error and had only four out of six number and would have only won £27.