Lottery winners turned losers

March 30, 2012 10:08 am

Sorry to be the skunk at the lottery garden party. But it is worth noting that scores of people are wasting thier time standing in lines today to buy lottery tickets for the Mega Millions jackpot that has climbed to $540 million. While many are dreaming about what they would do with all of that money, this report says to be careful what you wish for. Some of the biggest lottery winners have seen their lives take a turn for the worse after striking it rich.

Consider Jack Whittaker, a West Virginia businessman who won $315 million in the Powerball lottery in 2002. He was robbed of $545,000 in cash while at a strip club; his granddaughter and daughter were found dead; and he was sued by Caesars Atlantic City casino for bouncing $1.5 million in checks to cover gambling losses.

Billy Bob Harrell, Jr., a preacher and Home Depot clerk struck won $31 million in the Texas lottery in 1997. Just 20 months later, after divorcing his wife and buying a half-dozen homes for relatives, he committed suicide using a shotgun. See other stories here and here.

Other winners probably go on to enjoy the good life. But with the odds of winning at 1 in 176 million, the majority of lottery gamblers won’t have to worry about winning. Lost in the lottery hype is the government’s role in promoting a misguided policy that is essentially a regressive tax that strips wealth from those who can least afford it, by selling them long-shot dreams that – even for some winners – can turn into a nightmare.

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