Lottery Curse Victims: 7 People Who Won Big & Lost Everything
Riches-to-Rags Stories of ‘Cursed’ Lottery Winners
Many people think winning the lottery would be the answer to their prayers and the solution to all of their problems — but some winners have had the opposite experience. Despite being lucky enough to win the lottery, they later wished they’d torn up their ticket rather than redeeming it.
It may seem impossible that you could win millions of dollars and wish you hadn’t. But it’s happened often enough that the phenomenon has been dubbed the “lottery curse.”
Don’t believe it? Here are seven victims of the lottery curse — people whose “lucky” win turned sour, leading to divorce, bankruptcy, or even death.
These stories are cautionary tales, but there are plenty of jackpot winners who have gone on to put their money to good use for themselves and their communities. Read through to the end for tips on how to handle a jackpot responsibly and enjoy your winnings.
Jack Whittaker: “Since I Won the Lottery, There’s No Control for Greed”
Unlike many winners, Andrew “Jack” Whittaker was already wealthy when he won the largest jackpot ever awarded to a single Powerball ticket on Christmas morning in 2002. He chose a lump sum payment instead of an annuity, so he took home $113-some million from his $314.9 lottery ticket.
He added that to the money that he’d earned himself, working his way up from poverty to the owner of a West Virginia contracting company. When he bought the ticket, his company was doing about $15 million a year in contracts.
However, Jack Whittaker found his lottery winnings changed him more than the wealth he’d earned himself did.
Jack Whittaker did a lot of good with the money he won, setting up a charitable foundation, donating money to build churches in West Virginia, and even giving the woman who sold him the winning ticket a new house, a new car, and a pile of cash.
Nevertheless, the lottery curse hit him.
Not all states let winners stay anonymous, and Jack Whittaker’s win was widely publicized. He was deluged with people asking for money and favors.
He developed a habit of leaving large amounts of money in his car, which became widely known. One evening, when he was visiting a strip club, someone stole about half a million dollars out of his car. Later, in a separate incident, $100,000 was stolen from another car.
Furthermore, his company was hit with frivolous lawsuits from people who wanted to get access to deep pockets, costing him millions in legal fees.
Under the strain, Whittaker started to unravel. He started drinking hard and getting into fights. He’d get handsy with women and offer them money to sleep with him or take off their clothes for him.
But that’s, by far, not the worst of it.
He enjoyed spoiling his granddaughter, Brandi. He gave her a huge allowance and four cars, but his generosity backfired when her wealth attracted a bad crowd.
A boyfriend of Brandi’s died of an overdose in a house Whittaker was developing, and Brandi was implicated. Friends wouldn’t even let her attend the funeral.
A year later, Brandi was found dead under suspicious circumstances, though the case was never solved.
The deaths had devastating consequences for his family. His daughter, Brandi’s mother, was found dead seven years after the jackpot was won. Whittaker’s wife divorced him.
Whittaker lost the people he loved and the money that he won.
“Since I won the lottery, I think there is no control for greed,” Jack Whittaker said. “I think if you have something, there’s always someone else that wants it. I wish I’d torn that ticket up.”
You can read more about Jack Whittaker’s story here: Powerball Winner Says He’s Cursed.
Six victims of the lottery curse: people whose 'lucky' lottery win led to divorce, bankruptcy, or even death.
Lotto: Lucky Palmerston North resident wins $14.3m
Two other Lotto winners from Ashburton and Kaiapoi will also be celebrating after each winning $333,333 with Lotto First Division tonight. Photo/ Michael Bradley.
One lucky Palmerston North resident has scooped up a $14.3 million win in tonight’s Lotto draw.
The country’s latest big winner’s pot of money was made up of $14m from Powerball First Division and $333,333 from Lotto First Division.
The golden ticket was sold at Melody’s New World in Palmerston North.
Two other Lotto winners from Ashburton and Kaiapoi will also be celebrating after each winning $333,333 with Lotto First Division tonight. The winning Lotto tickets were sold at Kaiapoi New World and on MyLotto to a player from Ashburton.
Strike Four was also won tonight by a player from Christchurch, who took home $200,000. The winning Strike ticket was sold at Wainoni Pak’NSave in Christchurch.
The big win comes three weeks after one lucky Morrinsville ticket won $5.5 million in Powerball First Division. But the prize is yet to be claimed.
Lotto NZ has urged anyone who bought a Powerball ticket from Paper Plus Morrinsville to check their ticket to see if they’re the big winner.
The $5.5m prize was made of $5m from Powerball First Division and $500,000 from Lotto First Division.
Marie Winfield from Lotto NZ says most Powerball winners claim their prize within a few days of winning big.
“The winner may know that they have the lucky winning ticket and could just be letting the news sink in, or they may be completely unaware that their little yellow ticket is worth millions,” she said.
“We can’t wait to meet you and celebrate your amazing win.”
In December 2019 a $17.1m prize went unclaimed for over three weeks, as the South Island winner quietly came to terms with the enormity of their win, laying low for a while before coming forward to Lotto NZ.
And in August 2019 a $12.2m winner was only made aware they’d scooped up the prize when Lotto NZ contacted them through the MyLotto they’d bought the ticket on.
One winner got the surprise of this life when Lotto NZ turned up at his Christchurch home to tell him he’d won $22m.
He’d thought the prize had already been claimed.
Winfield said there’d already been 25 Powerball winners so far this year.
The golden ticket was sold at Melody's New World in Palmerston North.