In the book Money for Nothing: One Man’s Journey through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions, Edward Ugle says the “broke or financially troubled lottery winners are the rule.”
In fact, the consequences of winning the lottery are often more frightful than mere financial trouble.
Evelyn Adams, who won the New Jersey lottery in 1985 and 1986 for a total of $5.4 million, gambled and gave away all her winnings and by 2001 was poor and living in a trailer.
Teresa Brunnings, who won $1.3 million in a lottery in 1985, says that she had a party then, but, “Of all the people who came, not one speaks to me now.”
Michael Carroll, who won about $17 million in a lottery in England in 2003, said he only had $3 million left in early 2006. He told the press, “I regret ever winning the lottery. I’ve spent $2 million on drugs and given $7 million to friends and family.”
Karen Cohen, who won $1 million in the Illinois state lottery in 1984, filed for bankruptcy in 2000 and in 2006 was sentenced to 22 months in jail for lying to federal bankruptcy court.
Jeffrey Dampier, who won $20 million, was kidnapped and murdered by his own sister-in-law.
Ed Gildein, who won $8.8 million in the Texas lottery in 1993, gambled away most of the money and left his wife with a slew of debts when he died in 2003. In 2005 Ed’s widow, Janice, was sued by her daughter who claimed that she was taking money from a trust fund and squandering cash in Las Vegas. The daughter lost the case and mother and daughter agreed to “divorce” themselves from one another.
Noreene Gordon, who, with her husband James, won a $52 million Florida lottery in 2000 says, “It’s a nightmare.” She told Tampa Bay Online that “people come out of the walls to take advantage of you every day of your life.”
Billie Bob Harrell, Jr., who won $37 million a Texas lottery in 1997, committed suicide less than two years later after his spending habits had spiraled out of control and strained his marriage severely. Shortly before his death, Harrell confided to a financial adviser: “Winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
Willie Hurt, who won $3.1 million in Michigan in 1989, spent his fortune on divorce and crack cocaine and within two years was broke and charged with murder.
Michael Klingebiel, who won a $2 million lottery, was sued in 1998 by his own mother, who said he failed to share the jackpot.
Janite Lee, who won $18 million in 1993 in Missouri, filed for bankruptcy just eight years later and had only $700 left.
Mack Metcalf, who won $65 million in a Kentucky lottery in 2000, divorced his second wife, gave away half a million dollars to a former girlfriend when he was drunk, was sued by his first wife for unpaid child support, and died in 2003 at age 45 of alcoholism. Metcalf’s second wife, Virginia, who shared his jackpot, bought a mansion, surrounded herself with stray cats, and died of a drug overdose the same year Mack died.
Paul McNabb, who was Maryland’s first lottery millionaire, ended up driving a cab in Las Vegas.
Suzanne Mullins, who won $4.2 million a Virginia lottery in 1993, could not pay her bills 11 years later and was sued unsuccessfully for nonpayment of a loan.
Kenneth and Connie Parker, who won $25 million, divorced just months after “striking it rich.”
After William Post won $16.2 million in a Pennsylvania lottery in 1988 his brother tried to hire a contract killer to hit him and his wife. When he declared bankruptcy in 1993 he said, “Everybody dreams of winning money, but nobody realizes the nightmares that come out of the woodwork, or the problems.” When he died in 2006 he was living on his meager monthly Social Security check and The Washington Post headlined his obituary “The Unhappy Lottery Winner.”
Ken Proxmire, who won $1 million in a Michigan lottery, was bankrupt within five years.
Charles Riddle, who won $1 million in Michigan in 1975, got divorced, faced several lawsuits, and was indicted for selling cocaine.
After Juan Rodriguez won $149 million in a New York lottery, his wife of 17 years filed for divorce and took half of his winnings.
After Lewis Snipes’ wife won $31.5 million in 1988, her husband disagreed with her and her sisters over whether to accept the lump sum payout. The matter was litigated for four years and split the family apart.
Thomas Strong, who won $3 million in a Texas lottery in 1993, died in a shoot-out with police in 2006.
Shefik Tallmadge, who won $6.7 million in the Arizona lottery in 1988, declared bankruptcy in 2005.
Rhoda Toth, who, together with her husband Alex, won $13 million in 1990, is in prison for income tax fraud. Within two years after hitting the lottery jackpot, the Toths were borrowing money to pay bills and were living in a trailer without electricity. In 2008, Alex died “hating life” and Rhoda pled guilty to filing false tax returns and was sentenced to two years in prison. She says, “The winning ticket ruined my life.”
Jack Whittaker, who won $314 million in a lottery in December 2002, has been sued for bouncing checks at a casino, was divorced by his wife, was ordered to undergo rehab because of drunken driving, was sued by the father of a teenager who was found dead in one of Whittaker’s houses, and took to drink. And he had pampered his teenage granddaughter, Brandi Bragg, with four new cars and a $2000 a week allowance, she died of a drug overdose. Whittaker’s ex-wife, Jewell, said, “If I knew what was going to transpire, honestly, I would have torn the ticket up.” In July 2009 Brandi’s mother, Ginger, was found dead at age 42.
Victoria Zell, who shared an $11 million Powerball jackpot with her husband in 2001, was penniless by 2006 and serving seven years in a Minnesota prison, having been convicted in a drug- and alcohol-induced collision that killed someone.
Abraham Shakespeare, who received $13 million from the Florida state lottery in 2006, spent the money in a little over two years and was murdered by someone who was probably one of his newfound “friends.” His relatives said that he was “miserable early on from his newfound fortune” (“Trust was costly for Shakespeare,” The Tampa Tribune, Feb. 4, 2010). In January 2007 he purchased a million-dollar home and then sold it for a loss of $350,000 two years later to a woman who said that she wanted to write the story of his life. In January 2010 Shakespeare’s body was found buried under a slab of concrete on the property.
If he knew the Bible, Shakespeare should have known better than to gamble. The Bible exposes the lottery for the lie that it is. The lottery encourages covetousness, which the Bible condemns, and it mocks contentment, which that the Bible exalts. The deceitful message of the lottery is that wealth can solve your problems, but the Bible says, “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven” (Proverbs 23:5). It is a poor testimony for a Christian to trust in “Lady Luck.” “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:5-6).