10 Crazy Things Lottery Winners Spent Their Money On
Most lottery winners typically have a moment at some point where they say to themselves, “I can buy just about anything.” Of course that isn’t necessarily true, but sometimes it can be hard to stop people from blowing their fortune without serious intervention. In this list of 10 crazy things lottery winners spend their money, you’ll learn what not to do when you win the lottery.
#1: Michael Carroll’s Demolition Derby
The story of Michael Carroll is infamous. In November 2002, at just age 19, Michael took home £9.7 million after winning the UK National Lottery. Over a short period of time, he blew it all away on things that didn’t matter and wouldn’t last—which isn’t an uncommon occurrence among lottery winners, especially young ones. In fact, many are so unprepared that they end up spending every last penny of the riches that could have lasted them a lifetime had they made more responsible purchases. In Michael’s case, he bought houses and cars, spent money on drugs and women, and made a public scene that was a favourite among tabloids. There are many crazy elements to his story, but the one that sticks out the most is the time he installed a race track in his backyard to host demolition derbies—with the nice cars that he originally had purchased to drive. It’s no wonder his money disappeared so quickly!
#2: John Kutey’s Water Park
When John and Linda Kutey won $28.7 million on a Mega Millions ticket on March 25th, 2011, they had plenty of ideas for how they could spend their winnings. Perhaps the craziest—and most generous—one was donating $200,000 to their city to build a waterpark for the kids in their community. Sure, it was a great move to create some recreational fun in Green Island, New York, but it definitely raised some eyebrows from the general public. Nevertheless, the spray park opened officially in July 2013, and to this day the locals love it.
#3: Bob Erb’s Push for Marijuana Legalisation
When Canadian activist Bob Erb won $25 million on a Lotto Max ticket in November 2012, the excitement was real. He’d been buying lottery tickets for 43 years and never once considered the possibility of actually winning the jackpot. Becoming a multi-millionaire requires a lot of planning, but for Bob, one thing was certain: he wanted to donate to good causes. He made the decision to keep working after winning with the intent of donating his earnings to local food banks, which is extremely admirable. Oddly enough, his next move was to donate $1 million of his winnings to “420 Day,” an annual event that advocated for the legalisation of marijuana. We can only guess he knew to donate to what was most important to him, but it was certainly outlandish from an outsider’s perspective. After all, $1 million is a big chunk of change. However, seeing how Canada legalised marijuana in October 2018, perhaps it wasn’t such a crazy idea after all.
#4: Jonathan Vargas’s Wrestling Show
Jonathan Vargas is yet another example of a young lottery winner who let the money get to his head. On May 17th, 2008, the 19-year-old won $35.3 million on a Powerball ticket. At first, his plans for how to spend his money were modest. He was excited to support his family in a big way, including buying his mother a new house and setting up trust funds for his siblings. He was even responsible enough to seek out financial advisement from an accountant. Still, he was only a teenager after all, and his financial stability didn’t have a chance after he began purchasing lavish things. Perhaps the craziest investment of all was launching a female wrestling show known as “Wrestlicious Takedown” in March 2010. As many would expect, it didn’t last long. The show was disregarded by critics and audiences alike, and after only 13 episodes, the show was pulled from the air. Unfortunately for Jonathan, he lost most of his money in the show’s production.
#5: Sarah Cockings’s Big Buy
When social work student Sarah Cockings won over £3 million from the UK Lotto in April 2005, she was eager to finally be able to take care of her loved ones. She spent a big chunk of her winnings on houses, cars, and vacations for her family. This was all fairly normal for a lottery winner, but she eventually took it one step further when she chose to fund her own and her two sisters’ breast augmentations. It stirred up a pretty sceptical response from the public—she joked people would stop her in the street and ask, “Are those the lottery boobs?”—but if that’s really what you want to do with your money, then by all means go for it.
#6: Louise White’s Flavourful Trust
In March 2012, 81-year-old Rhode Island resident Louise White was in the process of purchasing a rainbow sherbet shop when she bought a winning Powerball ticket worth $336.4 million. With that much money, Louise could afford to do just about anything! Instead, with her focus immediately on her family, she started a trust. This in itself wasn’t all that crazy—it was the fact that she named the trust after her favourite dessert! Her family will now benefit from the trust that she called “the Rainbow Sherbet Trust.”
#7: Charlie Lagarde’s Photography Studies
At just 18 years old, lottery winner Charlie Lagarde had a one-track mind—in a good way. In March 2018, after winning $1 million on a scratch-off ticket and accepting a weekly payout of $1,000, she committed to using her winnings to travel and study photography. She hoped to become a photographer for National Geographic. Since we oftentimes see young lottery winners throw their riches at just about anything, Charlie’s decision is a pretty impressive one. In all honesty, it’s actually only crazy to us because it's so out of the norm—we would be much likelier to expect someone of her age to take the lump sum option and buy a mansion or sports car or hundreds of designer purses, like so many others have done before. Nevertheless, her plan paid off because some of her work has apparently been featured in National Geographic already. Nice work, Charlie!
#8: Janite Lee’s Generous Political Donation
In 1993, Korean wigmaker and St. Louis resident Janite Lee had the fortune of winning $18 million after purchasing an Illinois Lottery ticket. Considering that’s a pretty decent chunk of change, most people would be led to believe she’d spend most of those winnings on herself. Strangely, they’d be wrong. After her big win, she donated a large percentage of the money she’d won to the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, in 2001, just eight years later, Janite had to file for bankruptcy after her big donations, gambling problem, and credit-card debt left her broke.
#9: George and Beryl Keates’ Big Gift
When English couple George and Beryl Keates won the UK National Lottery in the amount of £3.5 million on February 29th, 2012, they didn’t even question how they’d spend their winnings—they already knew. They almost immediately divided the winnings between all of their closest family members. Specifically, their four sons received £250,000 each, while their nine grandchildren received £10,000 each. Likewise, they shared the money with their sisters. Oh, and they used some of what was left over to buy even more lottery tickets.
#10: Vivian Nicholson’s Big Shopping Spree
It was September 1961 when Vivian Nicholson's husband Keith won £152,000 (£3.5 million today) in Britain’s football pools. She took no time to consider how she’d spend her money. Instead, she impulsively announced that her plans were to “spend, spend, spend.” Keeping true to her word, Viv spent all of her money buying luxury items and travelling—and the newspapers couldn’t get enough of it. Particularly, she ordered expensive dresses from Harrods, purchased quite a few luxury vehicles, and used the rest of her winnings to travel in Europe and the US. By 1965, the year her husband died, her finances were spread way too thin and she eventually went bankrupt. After her passing in 2015, her closet was apparently still full of haute couture, though she was determined to be cash poor.
It’s easy to get caught up in the glamour of winning the lottery, and big lottery winners often don’t prepare themselves for the responsibility of having so much money. Inevitably, mistakes are made—some much bigger than others—but fortunately that’s why there are ample resources for winners, including lawyers and financial advisors, that can help ensure your lottery winnings never run out.
Now that you've seen some of the craziest things that were purchased, why not take a look at the first things that lottery winners bought with their money?