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Two-thirds of lottery winners are broke within seven years.


Staff member
Lottery curse’ claims another victim with Ontario man broke and in jail after $5M win

Joseph Brean | August 9, 2016 9:24 PM ET

When he won a $5-million lottery jackpot in 2006, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation had some advice for Daniel Carley, then a small-time weed dealer in St. Catharines, Ont.

Get a financial advisor, it said. Then delist your phone number and change the locks on your home.

It was general advice, offered with a smile to all big winners. But it was especially prescient in Carley’s case, in which sound judgment was not the norm. For example, he blew more than half the money in the first three years, at a rate approaching $20,000 a week. Today he is broke.

News that Carley, 35, was sentenced last week to two and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to dealing crack in association with outlaw motorcycle gangs has offered the latest example of the lottery curse, a familiar story in which a jackpot destabilizes the lives of winners, and leaves them worse off than before.

There are, for example, the tabloid celebrity “lotto louts” of England, such as Michael Carroll, who went full circle from garbage collector to lavish spender and back to garbage collector, collecting addictions and convictions along the way.

There was Ibi Roncaioli of Thornhill, Ont., whose husband killed her when she went broke and her health began to fail. Raymond Sobeski of Princeton, Ont., tried and failed to hide his record-setting $30-million win from his wife. And in Quebec, the Lavigueur family was so plagued by lawsuits, opportunists and untimely deaths that they inspired a sordid miniseries.

As a group, these big lottery winners offer a rich vein of sociological insight. By some estimates, two-thirds of lottery winners are broke within seven years.

Basically, money tends to disrupt your life, and the more you let it change you, the worse you become.

One view, held by Richard Tunney, a professor of psychology at the University of Nottingham, is that the people who go wild and squander their jackpots are basically the sort who would have behaved irresponsibly anyway, whether rich or poor. But for the publicity of the lotto win, no one would have paid much attention.

But money also changes people’s outlook on those close to them, according to H. Roy Kaplan, a sociologist at the University of South Florida, who has surveyed hundreds of winners. He found that people who are already introverted tend to become more anxious and suspicious after they win.

He found Americans tended to move house immediately to areas of established privilege, whereas Canadians tended to renovate. Nearly 80 per cent of winners from both countries quit their jobs, often to their regret, and many who kept working were alienated from co-workers, as if they no longer needed or deserved to be working.

A study in Ohio in 2004 found that six per cent of big winners temporarily stopped work, 11 per cent went part time, 10 per cent started their own business, and 63 per cent continued full time — figures that are roughly in line with data collected by Canadian lottery agencies.

Edward Ugel, author of Money for Nothing: One Man’s Journey Through The Dark Side of Lottery Millions, has said that, of the thousands of winners he interviewed, a few were happy, “but you would be blown away to see how many winners wish they’d never won.”

In Carley’s case, misfortune was upon him the minute he claimed his winnings, and he was instantly alienated from some of his closest friends.

His friend since grade school, Paul Miller, who according to a judge was a sidekick “chauffeur” to Carley’s more dominant, charismatic personality, sued for half the winnings.

In a trial described by a judge as “awash in untruths and curiosities” with witnesses including “liars, fools, criminals,” Miller claimed he gave Carley $10 to buy tickets, and even scratched the winner himself, meaning he should share in the prize. His lawyer argued Carley took advantage of Miller’s “limited mental capacity.”

But the judge was having none of it. Miller was dishonest under oath, and Carley had the law and the facts on his side, so he kept the jackpot all to himself.

In arguments at Carley’s sentencing hearing last week, Carley’s lawyer summed up his client’s last few years, in a familiar story that insulates the rest of us against envy. Once an accidental millionaire, now Carley “has lost everything primarily from people taking advantage of him. He sold drugs to support his habit.”

From The National Post
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