“We look forward to the growing jackpot,” Ohio Lottery Director Pat McDonald, the current Mega Millions Consortium Principal Director, said in a press release Wednesday. “Watching the jackpot accumulate over a period of months and reach the billion dollar mark is truly breathtaking. We encourage customers to keep a balanced game and enjoy the ride.
McDonald added, “Someone is going to win.”
But as players race to collect their Mega Millions tickets and dream big – the odds of matching all six numbers are around 1 in 303 million – another popular question is once again front and center for those who are already making unrealistic plans for their hypothetical billion dollar win: What would you do if you won the lottery?
A history of past lottery winners shows a wide range of what players do with their winnings. Many have paid off debt, bought homes, and invested their money, while others have invested their money in building a water park, gambling in Atlantic City, or establishing women’s pro wrestling organizations. Some have adapted to the life of a multimillionaire. Others say the joy and thrill that came from sudden, unexpected wealth quickly turned into bad choices and sadness – and ruined their lives.
“When you immediately realize you’ve won, you’re filled with excitement. You’re like, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing, my life is going to change,'” said Robert Pagliarini, president of California-based Pacifica Wealth Advisors, which has worked with lottery winners. “It’s immediately followed by anxiety and fear – ‘Oh my God, what am I doing? How am I going to handle this? My life can change and maybe not in a good way. ”
Friday’s jackpot is just shy of last year’s $1.05 billion Mega Millions jackpot won by a single ticket shared by four members of a suburban Detroit lottery club. If no winning ticket is selected on Friday, the Mega Millions jackpot will close in on the record $1.5 billion prize won by a player from South Carolina in 2018. The player, who also chose to remain anonymous, said opted for the lump sum of over $877 million. , according to the South Carolina Education Lottery Commission.
Millions of players are expected to purchase $2 tickets to this week’s Mega Millions, which is being played in 45 states, plus Washington and the US Virgin Islands. There were more than 6.7 million winning tickets across the board for Tuesday’s draw, according to Mega Millions, including nine tickets with prizes ranging from $1 million to $3 million each.
With increased interest in the $1 billion jackpot and soaring ticket sales, it will become more likely that one person, or more people, will have a winning ticket after Friday’s draw, said Mark Glickman, master of lectures in statistics at Harvard University. .
“The big difference is that as these jackpots get bigger and bigger, more people will play, so there’s a higher chance of someone winning,” Glickman said. “But that doesn’t mean that any one person will have a better chance. Once the pot hits that range, there are enough players playing for someone to pick the right number.
When players have chosen the correct lottery numbers, most of them pay off debts or seek to buy homes for themselves or loved ones, Pagliarini said. He reminded a client of his splurge on a new house in the Malibu area that overlooked the Pacific Ocean.
Some celebrated their wealth through investments and non-traditional purchases or donations. In 2011, John Kutey and his wife, Linda, used part of his $28.7 million share of the $319 million winning Mega Millions ticket he bought with co-workers to build a water park in Green Island, NY, in honor of their parents, according to the Albany Times Union. Louise White won a Powerball jackpot in Rhode Island of over $336 million after buying a Rainbow Sherbet in 2012, and created a trust for her family named after the dessert, “The Rainbow Sherbet Trust,” ABC News reported.
Just this month, Crystal Dunn took her smallest winnings of more than $146,000 from an online Kentucky Lottery game and gave some of it away to strangers in the form of grocery gift cards. of $100.
She won the lottery. Then she shared her windfall with strangers.
But for every wellness story of unlikely lottery triumph, there are other experiences that show why it’s important to have a financial advisor and lawyer ready to help if someone hits the jackpot, said Pagliarini.
“There are so many stories of these lottery winners ending up with less money than when they started,” he said. “The big question, and the fear, is, ‘Am I going to blow it all up?’ And they could still blow it all up.
After Evelyn Adams improbably won the New Jersey Lottery in 1985 and 1986, taking home more than $5.4 million in total, her winnings were all spent in 2012 because of gambling in Atlantic City and investment mistakes, according to Forbes. South Carolina native Jonathan Vargas, who was just 19 when he won a $35.3 million Powerball prize in 2008, invested his winnings in Wrestlicious, a women’s pro wrestling promotion he founded. The show, which featured scantily clad performers who also did comedy, only lasted one season and cost Vargas nearly $500,000, according to CBS News.
“If I had to do it all over again, I’d recommend people sit on it for a year,” he said in 2016. “Really decide what they want to do with it.”
While lottery luck stories have been well documented over the years, the endings of these stories have varied.
He won the $314 million Powerball jackpot. It ruined his life.
Shortly after William “Bud” Post won a $16.2 million Pennsylvania Lottery jackpot in 1988, his brother was arrested for hiring a hitman to kill him for the inheritance. Post was later successfully sued by an ex-girlfriend for a share of the winnings and was $1 million in debt at the time of his death in 2006.
“Everyone dreams of making money, but nobody realizes the nightmares that come with carpentry, or the problems,” he said in 1993.
In the case of Ronnie Music Jr., the $3 million he won in a Georgia Lottery scratch game in 2015 was spent buying and distributing crystal meth. He pleaded guilty in 2016 to investing in a drug ring and was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Despite the unlikelihood of winning this week’s $1 billion jackpot and the story of some winners cashing out, that doesn’t stop people from asking “what if?” Pagliarini plans to hit the store to get two tickets for himself and his daughter, while Harvard professor Glickman will continue to use his strategy of picking Mega Millions numbers entirely at random.
If he were to win, Glickman said he would like to buy a vacation home in La Jolla, Calif., where he just returned from vacation. But Glickman is honest in acknowledging that his gambling history means he, like millions of others, will have to wait a little longer for those lottery dreams.
“When I played last week, I had a ticket that I think cashed in $10 – and that’s the most I’ve ever won,” he said. “I come into this knowing full well that luck will not shine on me.”