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The Scary Side of Winning the Lottery


Feeling lucky? Don't.


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.

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