Intro: There’s not much in life that beats the feeling of winning a million-plus in the lottery or online casino. Every year thousands around the world experience the euphoria of a big win. You’re set for life right? Maybe not. Take a look at winners who lost everything and how you can hang onto your fortune if that day comes.
1. The Griffiths and too many choices
For Lara and Roger Griffiths, 2005 was the year they’d always dreamed of. They won a UK $2.76 million lottery jackpot. The happily-married couple bought the kind of home they’d always wanted but thought they’d never have – a million-dollar barn-conversion and furnishings to match. Then came a Porsche and luxury trips to New York, Dubai, and Monaco; first class all the way.
Within five years of their dream win, life turned into a nightmare for the Griffiths. First, their luxury home was destroyed by a fire and turned out to be underinsured. Not only did they have to spend large sums on the repairs, but they also had to live in temporary accommodation for months on end. Worse was to follow. The 14-year marriage of the couple who never argued ended when Lara found romantic emails her husband had been sending to another woman. The final curtain came for the couple when Lara confronted Roger and he chose to drive away in the Porsche.
So what went so badly wrong for the Griffiths? The couple may have been presented with too many choices following their huge win. Studies suggest that too many choices or ‘choice overload’ can cause anxiety and the more choices we have, the more opportunity there is to feel disappointment or regret at the ones we make.
Avoiding the fallout from choice overload can be achieved by making sure you have as much information as possible when making those choices, and relying on professional advice and expertize when making key decisions.
2. Sharon Tirabassi’s return to real life
The year 2004 started the way it always did for Sharon Tirabassi. Life was hard. She was a single mother living on welfare. Then a win in the Ontario Lottery netted her a cool $10 million Canadian dollars and Sharon spent like there was no tomorrow. She splurged on a big fancy house, drove expensive cars and wore only designer clothes and jewelry. There were over the top parties and luxury travels, and more than a few gifts, loans, and handouts to friends and family.
It took Sharon less than 10 years to burn through her winnings. These days she’s back at work, riding the bus and living in a rental. So what got into Sharon?
One of the reasons lottery or online casino winners can blow their winnings is because they lose touch with reality. It’s easy to get distracted from family and personal issues by spending money. An example is Black Friday – Thanksgiving – Christmas madness. November hits and there’s a whole lot of shopping, buying, family feasts, and parties with friends. Then comes January and you’re left wondering where all that time and money went. A lottery win can have a similar effect on a lucky winner. The remedy? Practice mindfulness when spending. Impose limitations on your time and spending and get involved with local charities to keep in touch with reality while keeping your fortune intact.
It seems Sharon’s children were her only reality check during her 10-year spending spree. She put away some of her winnings in trust for her six children when they turn 26.
3. Evelyn Adams didn’t know when to quit
Through 1985 and ’86, Evelyn Adams was one of the luckiest people on the planet. She was working as a clerk at a New Jersey convenience store when she won $3.9 million in the New Jersey Lottery in October 1985. Then four months later she won another $1.4 million jackpot prize. She was the only person at that time to have won twice.
She paid her bills, put away college tuition for her daughter, and tried to help out friends and family with loans after the first win. After the second win, she told the press she was going to quit gambling, but she didn’t. She got involved in a series of failed business ventures and kept gambling at the tables until she’d lost all her money. Today she lives in a trailer.
Evelyn might have been able to keep luck on her side if she’d got help and advice from the financial pros and known when to walk away from the tables. Whether your thing is the tables or online casino sites, you always want to play for fun and only use money you can afford to lose.
4. Denise Rossi never said a word to her husband
Denise Rossi scooped $1.3 million in the California lotto in December 1996. At the time, Denise was aware that sharing is caring but it turns out she didn’t care much for her husband. Eleven days after her win, keeping her windfall a secret, she filed for divorce from Thomas who she’d been married to for 25 years. Thomas said it came as a shock – they were so close they even shared an electric toothbrush, but he agreed to the divorce.
Then two years later he found a letter that clued him in on Denise’s lotto win and he sued her for failing to disclose her winnings during divorce proceedings. Her punishment? A judge ordered her to pay over every cent to her former husband!
The lesson here is obvious. Even when you’re a big winner, stay on the right side of the law.
5. What Callie Rogers would tell her younger self
Shop clerk Callie Rogers was just sweet 16 when she took a winning lottery ticket that netted her $3 million. Without a care in the world, the teenager bought expensive cars, which her boyfriend had to drive because she didn’t have her license yet. Then she indulged in a few luxury homes, plastic surgery, and substance abuse, until there wasn’t much money left and she ended up working as a maid and found out she was pregnant with twins.
Callie Rogers learned the hard way that youth is wasted on the young. If she could go back and tell her younger self a thing or two, what might that be?
6. Billy Bob Harrell Jr.’s generous streak
Billy Bob took home $31 million in the Lotto Texas. At the time he was a stock boy at Home Depot. At first, he made all the right moves. He bought a ranch, took care of his family, and helped the needy in his church. But the requests for help kept streaming in and Billy Bob just couldn’t say no. Two years after his lottery win, he had helped almost every needy person who’d crossed his path and with nothing left in his pocket, Billy Bob committed suicide.
The moral of this story is that Billy Bob could have best helped people by helping himself. There’s nothing wrong with donating winnings to favorite charities but this should be done in a way that leaves most of your winnings intact. Again, the help of tax and financial pros is critical. By tying winnings up in real estate and investments, Billy Bob would have been able to help the needy from interest on investments while safeguarding himself and his family from empathy overdrive.
7. Michael Carroll’s money couldn’t buy happiness
When he won the lottery in 2002 at age 19, Englishman Michael Carroll was a garbage man making barely enough to keep himself going. Right away he took to the high life, spending his $14.4 million winnings on a mansion, clothes, and jewelry, partying and drugs until it was all gone. He wound up broke and relying on unemployment checks. It took him a while to get a job making $500 a week.
The point here is that money really doesn’t buy happiness. Michael would have been better off if he’d taken the time before spending a cent to think about what really did make him happy. This might have turned out to be a mortgage-free home, the opportunity to study, a financially secure future – all stepping stones to the love of family, genuine friendships, and a sense of self-worth and personal fulfillment. Michael’s $14 million could have gone a long way.
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