By Victor Ochieng
Not everyone plays the lottery, but at one point or the other, we all think of what life would be if we won a jackpot. In fact, some of us even have clear plans of how to spend the jackpot money should it come; a mansion in Los Angeles and another in Beverly Hills; a Bugatti and a vacation in Hawaii, maybe.
Unfortunately, a good number of those who win jackpots end up broke in just a few years.
An example is Jack Whittaker who won $315 million in 2002 after purchasing a lotto ticket when he’d stopped to fuel his car. At the time of winning the jackpot, he wasn’t a poor man; he was president of Diversified Enterprises Construction, with a net worth of more than $17 million. After that great win, he received his $113.4 million payout and that’s when his life started crumbling down.
Less than a year after winning the lottery, robbers broke into his car at a strip club parking lot and made out with $543,000 in cash. Why was he walking around with such a huge amount of cash? “Because I can,” he said. Of course, he could. In January 2004, thieves broke into his car again and made away with $200,000, but luckily that was recovered. He faced serious challenges, including deaths of his family members, with most of them linked to the overflowing cash and drug use.
Within just a period of four years, he was broke. He had not only drained the $113.4 million jackpot, but also the $17 million he’d earned through hard work. He reckoned that it was actually the jackpot that messed up his life.
He’s not alone. Many jackpot winners have gone through the same.
Billie Bob Harrell, Jr. won $31 million in 1997 only to end up committing suicide in 1999 after being weighed down by requests for money from friends and family.
In 1988, William Post won $16.2 million. In 1989, his own brother contracted a killer to murder him and his wife and his landlady filed a suit demanding a share of his jackpot.
In 1985, Evelyn Adams won a jackpot totaling $5.4 million. By 2001, she was completely broke and living in a trailer after she gambled away all her fortune.
In 1993, Suzanne Mullins won $4.2 million and she’s now completely broke.
These are just a few. There are many more whose lives have been messed up by jackpots.