People who have never been millionaires cannot imagine what is like. While it quickly solves some problems, it creates horrific new ones. Most regret winning the millions, or confess it made life a living hell. Ken Proxmire, won $1 million in the 1977 Michigan Lottery. He used the money to open a chain of sporting goods stores. His business went bankrupt, leaving him $100,000 in debt. According to the Time magazine article, his wife left him.
In 1996 a group of 43 farmers in Roby, Texas pooled their money and bought 430 lottery tickets. The next day they had won a $46 million prize. Suddenly a town of 600 had 43 new millionaires. A Texas Monthly article reported most of the winners opted for a cash settlement, providing them with only one third of their winnings. Though “the town’s farmers could finally breathe a sigh of relief,” few prospered from their winnings. Most winners cut deals with lottery buyout brokers, who gave them cash upfront in exchange for future annual payments, writes Pamela Colloff, author of the Texas Monthly article. In the end, she says, that left them with roughly 1/3 of their original winnings. Bad business ventures and a plague of untimely bad luck didn’t help.
Years later, Roby remains a dying town. “For all the trouble the lottery brought on me, I don’t know whether to be happy I won or sorry I didn’t,” said Lance Green, the town’s mayor at the time.
Callie Rogers won £1.9 million (about $3 million dollars at the time) in a UK lottery. The 16 year-old spent her winnings on breast improvements, vacations, homes, shopping, and friends. Six years later, Rogers is a 22-year-old single mother of two. She now works as a maid to sustain herself and her family. She is paying off debt induced by her spending. She says. ‘My life is a shambles and hopefully now it has all gone I can find some happiness. It’s brought me nothing but unhappiness. It’s ruined my life.”
Janite Lee, a St. Louis wig shop owner, won a $18 million lottery in 1993. The 52-year-old then went on a philanthropic binge that lost her everything. Besides the usual million-dollar house and cars, Lee reportedly donated more than $1 million to Washington University, where her namesake reading room commemorates the occasion. Her $277,000 donation to Democratic political candidates, earning her meals with Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and even the President of South Korea. Her philanthropy and a gambling habit cost her $347,000 in a single year. She filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2001.
Welshman Luke Pittard won £1.3 million in a 2006 UK lottery play. He spent a portion of his prize money on a Canary Islands holiday, a wedding, and new house. After only 18 months, however, Pittard felt so bored he returned to his previous job—at a Cardiff, Wales McDonald’s restaurant.
Willie Hurt won $3.1 million in the 1989 Michigan Lottery. Within two years, this former family man found his life in shambles. He divorced his wife, lost custody of his kids, and spent his remaining money on crack cocaine. An attempted murder charge tops off Hurt’s world of lotto-induced pain.
In 1993, Suzanne Mullins won $4.2 million in the lottery. She later borrowed $198,000 from a lending company, using her lotto winnings as colateral, according to this Bankrate article. They later sued her for the missing amount. She has no assets to pay it off with.
55-year-old Jack Whittaker ran a successful contracting company in West Virginia when he won a $315 million Powerball jackpot, the biggest amount ever won by a single ticket at the time.
Whittaker, who already had a net worth of $17 million, received a $114 million check, after taxes. He gave money to Christian charities and a personal foundation supporting low-income families. In addition to this good, he was arrested twice. Thieves took $545,000 in cash while he was visiting a strip club. Caesars Atlantic City sued him for bouncing $1.5 million in checks. His wife divorced him. In 2003, Whittaker’s granddaughter’s boyfriend was found dead of an overdose inside Whittaker’s home. His 17-year-old granddaughter, whom he had been giving a $2,100 weekly allowance, fatally overdosed months later. His daughter—mother of the dead granddaughter—died this year of as-yet-undetermined causes.
In 1997, Home Depot stocker Billie Bob Harrell, Jr. won a $31 million Texas jackpot. To the former Pentecostal preacher, $1.24 million per year was a gift from heaven. He bought a ranch, a bunch of new cars and six homes.. After the initial glory subsided, however, Harrell had difficulty saying no to those who asked for money.
He divorced his wife. Less than two years afterwinning $31 million the former preacher committed suicide.
“Winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me,” he is quoted as saying shortly before taking his life.