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The Scary Side of Winning the Lottery

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Feeling lucky? Don't.

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Lotteries have been around for quite some time.

In Chapter 26 in the Book of Numbers, Moses used a lottery to award land west of the River Jordan.

Today, lotteries award huge sums of money to people with a dollar and a dream - and the willingness to stand on line. The odds of winning are 3,383,380 to 1, but according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries Americans spend more than $50 billion a year on tickets.

It doesn't take a Nobel Laureate to understand that playing the lottery isn't a form of investing (although 25% of players are college graduates and 10% have advanced degrees.)

Still, someone's got to hit the jackpot, right?

If you're like most gamblers, each time you hold that just-printed ticket in your hands, you think, "This is it. This is the time I get lucky." Funny, because luck definitely hasn't been the operative word in some famous lottery winners' lives .

Evelyn Adams, who won the New Jersey Lottery in 1985 and again in 1986 for a total of $5.4 million, gambled most of it away on the slots in Atlantic City, donated the rest and today lives in a trailer.

William Post, who won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania Lottery In 1988, was sued by an ex-girlfriend for a share of the winnings, survived an attempt on his life by a hitman hired by his brother and invested in business ventures that returned nothing. Within a year, he was a million dollars in debt. He then did time in jail for firing a gun at a bill collector and now lives on food stamps.

New York City parking garage attendant Juan Rodriguez split up with his wife 2 weeks before hitting the lottery for $149 million. They reconciled shortly thereafter, before changing her mind again, filing for divorce and walking away with half the money.

Perhaps the most tragic tale belongs to Jack Whittaker, the biggest lottery winner in US history.

Since 2002, when he won $314.9 million, he's had $545,000 in cash and cashier's checks stolen from his Hummer. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. He's pleaded nolo contendere to assaulting and threatening to kill a bar manager; he's been arrested twice for driving under the influence; he's fought accusations of groping women at a dog track; he's been sued by Caesars Atlantic City for bouncing $1.5 million worth of checks; he's had his contracting business burglarized; and he's settled a suit brought by the father of an 18-year-old friend of his granddaughter's, who was found dead in his West Virginia home from a drug overdose.

Oh, and his wife divorced him, too.

This past January, Whittaker tried his luck again, on a Powerball ticket purchased at a local quick mart. He won a $10,000 consolation prize, but missed the big jackpot by 1 number.

Probably the luckiest day of his life.

No positions in stocks mentioned.
The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opinion about the performance of securities and financial markets by the writers whose articles appear on the site. The views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Minyanville Media, Inc. or members of its management. Nothing contained on the website is intended to constitute a recommendation or advice addressed to an individual investor or category of investors to purchase, sell or hold any security, or to take any action with respect to the prospective movement of the securities markets or to solicit the purchase or sale of any security. Any investment decisions must be made by the reader either individually or in consultation with his or her investment professional. Minyanville writers and staff may trade or hold positions in securities that are discussed in articles appearing on the website. Writers of articles are required to disclose whether they have a position in any stock or fund discussed in an article, but are not permitted to disclose the size or direction of the position. Nothing on this website is intended to solicit business of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Minyanville management and staff as well as contributing writers will not respond to emails or other communications requesting investment advice.

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