Patsy Pridgen

Patsy Pridgen

Lottery winners see downside of jackpot

By Dr. Patsy Pridgen
Life ColumnistBy Patsy Pridgen
Life Columnist

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The mega excitement is over. The winning numbers have been guessed. After weeks of no one hitting the largest jackpot in lottery history, three winners, against incredible odds, managed to do so in the same drawing. They will split $1.6 billion, which means that each winner’s share is roughly $528.8 million. Lucky ducks!

Or are they? Have you heard some of the stories about what happened to past jackpot winners? These often are tales of woe and misery. Here’s just a sample.

After winning $20 million, Floridian Jeffrey Dampier bought new houses and cars for his nine siblings. Evidently, this generosity was deemed insufficient by a sister-in-law who decided to get her hands on all the money. She and a boyfriend kidnapped Dampier and shot him in the back of the head.

William Post III won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery. He quickly bought a restaurant, a plane, a used car dealership and a mansion. Three months after his windfall, he was in debt for $500,000. Oh, and his brother tried to hire a hit man to have him killed.

Evelyn Adams was lucky enough to win the New Jersey lottery twice, totaling over $5.4 million. She had a gambling problem, though, and wound up living in a trailer.

Victoria Zell won an $11 million Powerball with her husband but was sent to jail after being convicted in a drunken driving collision that killed one person and paralyzed another.

And on and on it goes. Granted, these stories might be among the saddest of the jackpot dreams that turned into nightmares. But at the very least, lottery winners who come forward soon find themselves with a long list of people wanting money. After all, to whom much is given, much is expected.

I imagine that it’s hard to be left alone to enjoy that lottery windfall by yourself if your extended family, friends, and neighbors all know that you are suddenly millions of dollars richer. Aunt Martha needs somebody to pick up that hospital bill? Buddy Bill has a great idea for a business but just needs a financial backer? Guess who might be expected to pony up the cash.

Apart from this aggravation, there’s also the problem of simply having too much money. I don’t agree with the infamous Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, who once said, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” I think you can. No one needs $528 million. There’s no incentive left in life, no goals to reach. And such money can be a curse for your offspring. How can you threaten a child who won’t do his homework with a future of ditch digging if he knows you’re worth a gazillion dollars?

The truth of the matter is that most of us have already won the lottery. We have been born in the richest country in the world. We have a roof over our heads, clothes on our back and plenty to eat. We are free to go quietly about our business. Why waste money on a lottery ticket and chance messing up an already good life with a billion dollars?

Patsy Pridgen is a retired community college English instructor. She can be reached at