Multi-Lotto Winner Evelyn Adams: She Blew It All

Multi-Lotto Winner Evelyn Adams with Husband at CasinoNot many people get to live out their fantasies, and yet others are lucky enough to have their dreams come true not once, but twice. However, the sad truth is that reality is often much harsher than fantasies, and it doesn’t take much for a dream life to turn sour. That’s exactly what happened to lottery winner Evelyn Adams, who went from multi-millionaire to penniless gambler.


Evelyn Adams is a New Jersey woman who was working as a convenience store clerk in the 1980s. She had been an avid lotto player from the time the state lotto started running in 1971, spending $25 per week on tickets. She did so until she caught her first lucky break in October 1985, when she first won big. After her win, Adams decided to continue trying her luck, upping her weekly lottery spending to $100. Luckily for Evelyn, the investment paid off, and she won big again just four months later.


Evelyn Adams was lucky enough to win the New Jersey State Lottery not just once, but twice, and in a very short span of time. Her first win was an incredible $3.9 million in October 1985, and it was followed up by another win of $1.4 million in February 1986—just four months later. Adams beat incredible odds to get her winnings, with the odds of her first win being 1 in 3.2 million. The second jackpot had odds of 1 in 5.2 million.

Adams’ incredible luck propelled her into the spotlight, not just because of the life-changing amount of money she won, but because her second win made her the first two-time winner that the New Jersey Lottery ever had. It’s no wonder she may have developed a sense that she had luck on her side.

Both of Adams’ wins were paid out as annuities. After a 20% deduction applied for taxes, she was left with a total of $218,000 in annual payments.


Music Store with InstrumentsAfter her first win, Adams used her windfall to pay off her bills and set up a college fund for her daughter. She also purchased a new car and gave gifts to close friends and family. However, she also fell into a habit that many lottery winners develop: giving money away to people who request financial aid. Unfortunately, many recipients of her generosity felt that they never had to pay her back, leading to some strained relationships.

According to Adams, it wasn’t until her second win that life really started to change. By that point, she had become a bit of a lottery celebrity. She started being recognized, and felt she had lost a lot of her privacy. However, that didn’t stop her from making plans for her future. After the second win, Adams planned to go to school to study music, with the intention of one day opening a music store. She was also planning to marry her fiancé, the owner of the convenience store she had been working at when she won.

Though she did marry her fiancé, she never pursued her dream of returning to school. Moreover, the couple sold the convenience store but never opened a music store. When New York Times caught up with Adams in 1993, seven years after her win, she was still optimistic about her future, planning to leave her town of Point Pleasant Beach after her daughter graduated high school. However, things didn’t go as planned.


Ugly Trailer ParkWhile Evelyn acknowledged some mistakes in giving her money away too freely in 1993, the bulk of her mistakes came later. At some point after her big wins, Adams developed a gambling addiction, spending much of her winnings at the tables in Atlantic City. When combined with bad investments, personal spending—including a home renovation she was working on at the time of her 1993 Times interview—and gifts for friends and family, the cash quickly dried up. Twenty years after her history-making wins, Evelyn Adams was living in a trailer park, penniless.

Adams is all too aware of the issues that developed thanks to her wins. Not only does she believe she gave too much of her money away, but she also saw the way her good fortune changed the attitudes of some friends and family. She felt that everyone was looking to her for a handout, and that she never had the willpower to tell them no. In thinking back on how she managed her finances, Adams says she would be much smarter about her decisions, wishing she had the chance to do it all over again.


Unfortunately, dreams are often much sweeter than reality, and nobody knows that better than the many lottery winners whose lives change for the worse after winning big. To avoid suffering a sad ending like Evelyn Adams if you ever win the lottery, hire trusted financial advisors to help you manage your new wealth, and be alert to the signs of gambling addiction before they take over your life.

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