In the United States, the lottery is mostly part of everyday life. There’s scratchers (real-time scratch-off tickets), Powerball, Mega Millions, state lotteries, and more!
I personally never grew up playing the lottery because I was always taught that the odds are against you. But are the chances of winning really any better or worse than playing at an online or land-based casino? And is winning the lottery a curse?
Some say that it is because of former winners. You’ll find out more as you read below.
Biggest US Lottery Winners
Its Powerball day! Or Mega Millions, whichever lottery you prefer. Either way, you and some coworkers go in on a ticket. And you’re probably hoping you can finally get out of your dead-end job.
This scenario plays out every time the US national lotteries get huge. When I say huge, I mean in the billions. Office lottery pools have become as American as baseball and homecoming.
The next biggest win for a US lottery is quite a ways down, money-wise. The winning numbers were worth $758.7 million. This time, the winner was one woman, Mavis L. Wanczyk of Chicopee, Massachusetts.
She decided to take a lump sum as well. Mavis quit her job of 32 years on the spot once she found out her numbers were winners.
Biggest US Lottery Losers
These stories aren’t as short nor as warm and fuzzy as the winners who we never hear from again. When you never hear from a lottery winner again, you can most likely assume they rode off into the sunset.
The problem winners (losers) are the ones you hear about over and over again. When I was researching this post, I found about 1,000 stories about how people’s lives got worse after winning in comparison to people whose lives improved after winning.
Here are the top three lottery winners that supplement the theory of the lottery curse.
1 – William “Bud” Post
In 1993, Mr. Post won $16.2 million. Post’s brother tried to have a hitman kill both him and his wife. Next, one of his former landladies successfully embezzled a third of his lottery winnings.
He was tried and found guilty of firing a shotgun at a person trying to collect a debt. He later filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Five years after winning the $16.2 million, Bud said, “Everybody dreams of winning money, but nobody realizes the nightmares that come out of the woodworks or the problems.” In 2006, Post died, leaving nothing but debt for his seventh wife.
… You think that’s bad? He also left his sixth wife with nine children to take care of. Not all lottery winners lead a good life afterward! And this guy is just one of the many stories you’ll come across.
2 – Willie Hurt
Willie was the winner of the Michigan lottery in 1989. He won a cool $3.1 million. Unfortunately, winning big didn’t pay off for Willie. This is tough to type, but I’m going for it…
In a short, two-year time frame, Mr. Hurt destroyed his marriage and lost visitation rights and custody of his children.
If that weren’t enough, he was charged with the murder of his girlfriend while on a crack binge. That is not only sad, but an obvious example of the following truism:
Money doesn’t make you happier.
His lawyer said that he’s penniless and blew through his lottery winnings on divorce proceedings and drugs.
3 – Jack Whittaker
Jack won $315 million in 2002 from playing Powerball. The West Virginia resident owned a construction company at the time of his lottery win in 2002.
He was broke four years later. He also lost his daughter and granddaughter to addiction in the same time frame. He blames himself for his granddaughter’s death because he shared his lottery winnings with her. He told ABC News:
“My granddaughter is dead because of the money. You know, my wife had said she wished that she had torn the ticket up. Well, I wish that we had torn the ticket up, too.”
I’m not going to go into the long list of terrible things that happened to Jack, but if there really is a curse, then it may be better to play alternatives to the lottery.
So, do you think there is a curse for the winner of the lottery?
Keep reading below to hear some of my thoughts on the matter.
Are Lottery Winners Cursed?
It might seem like it when you gather all the supporting evidence that most lottery winners end up in rather unfortunate circumstances.
…But I don’t think that winners of the lottery are cursed at all.
What I do believe is that money spoils people’s thinking. There are thousands of stories from around the world of people coming into money, then their lives end up destroyed.
This is not just something thats unique to lottery winners. Let’s look at some of the demographics of lottery players and the psychology behind winning (or inheriting) a lot of money.
Most lottery ticket purchases (Mega Millions and Powerball) in the US are made by lower-income populations looking to make their dreams come true.
What’s even more disturbing is how the lottery, as a whole, is marketed to these groups. Have you ever noticed how much more prominent lottery signage is in lower-income neighborhood convenience stores than they are in the more affluent neighborhoods?
It’s disturbing. The odds of winning the lottery are not good (Megamillions is something like 1 in 302.5 million). Even worse, it’s not common knowledge, unless you’re skeptical enough.
The demographic that is playing the massive lotteries are obviously more likely to win. Lower-income individuals don’t have a lot of experience with managing a lot of money.
Can you imagine how a sudden, large amount would mess with your judgment? Some psychologists state that winning a large sum of money when you’re struggling to make ends meet is similar to experiencing a high.
It makes it difficult for you to make good, coherent decisions. A lot of good feelings come from spending the cash. And truth be told, there are lots of theories behind why lottery winners end up “cursed.”
I stand behind its combination of aggressive marketing toward at-risk populations and the sheer vulnerability of being a winner. Publicizing winners also make them more of a target. Like Mr. Bud Post said, there’s “the nightmares that come out of the woodworks, or the problems.”
Even if it doesn’t seem like it, there’s science behind why the lottery is considered “cursed.” And it is entirely dependent on the winner’s situation and mindset before they won.
The “curse” isn’t evident in every single lottery winner, because some do end up managing their finances successfully. But many end up blowing through their finances within just a few years.
There may be some misguided truth behind the belief of a curse when a gambler wins big. Just like other forms of gambling, you should only play for fun.
Don’t let it take over your life. Play for the joy, and never take yourself too seriously.
I would also suggest the first call you make when hitting the big lotto jackpot would be to hire a competent financial advisor. I’m a big fan of paying others for their expertise to make my life easier, aren’t you?
I hope you found some useful tidbits about the lottery curse and gained some more insight!