Lottery Winners Whose Tickets Were Gifted to Them
Winning the lottery may often feel like a surreal experience. After all, you invest time, money, and 0effort into ensuring that you can win. You contemplate the numbers that you would like to play (unless you go for the easy, quick-pick route), and then you go out and purchase your ticket hoping that it is a winner. Mentally, you spend your winnings before they even arrive—and if you are not a winner, you repeat the process again until you are.
It may be an even more surreal experience then when you are gifted a lottery ticket by somebody else. This can happen for any number of reasons, and the chances are that you won’t give the ticket much thought—certainly not as much as you would a ticket that you actively purchased yourself. In this article, we will look at a few lottery winners whose tickets were gifted to them—ranked in order from smallest to largest prize. We will also look at who the lottery winnings belong to if you happen to be the lucky winner of a ticket that somebody gave to you.
Mukesh Duti: CA$675,000
The relationship between a man and his mother-in-law is often a funny one to behold. Movies portray mothers-in-law as monsters, and most men often tease and mock their spouse’s mother—even though they love them to death. However, mothers-in-law often care about their new sons. Sometimes, they care enough even to purchase an occasional lottery scratcher for them to try their luck with.
This is what happened when Mukesh was gifted a lottery scratcher from his mother-in-law. At the time, Mukesh was working hard as a plumber and was saving towards purchasing his own house. Luckily for him, the ticket that he received as a gift won him a spectacular 675,000 Canadian dollars. Mukesh quickly announced that his winnings would be put towards purchasing him and his wife their own home.
Joseph Morrah: $1 Million
Almost everybody has felt the panic of trying to find a Father’s Day gift in a hurry. This panic is precisely what led Christina Morrah to purchase her 61-year-old father, Joseph Morrah, a scratcher to place inside the Father’s Day card she bought for him. Unknowingly, she bought one of only four $1 million jackpot tickets in Pennsylvania.
Joseph, who worked as a truck driver and was nearing retirement at the time of his win in 2015, was delighted with the great win and decided to retire early with his $1 million payout. He said that he wanted to use the money to purchase a new car and truck. When speaking to the press after his win, he stated that he still could not believe that he was a winner and that he would accept it once he was holding his cheque in his own hands.
Daniel Schuman: $1 Million
Daniel Schuman will be the first to admit that he never plays the lottery. However, his wife decided to purchase him a ticket for the Virginia New Year’s Millionaire Raffle as a spur-of-the-moment gift. Little did either of them know that the ticket—purchased at a 7-Eleven in Arlington—would end up being a $1 million winning ticket. After the draw took place on February 20, 2020, Daniel admits that he rechecked the numbers after first seeing that they were a match and later went on to confirm the numbers with the Virginia Lottery.
After seeing that he had indeed won, he happily claimed his $1 million prize and told officials at the lottery that he did not yet have any plans for his winnings. We are sure, however, that he had some plan in motion to spoil his wife as a thank you for his great gift.
Melissa Spagnola: $2 Million
While some people never bother to purchase lottery tickets or scratchers, their family members may do so on their behalf. Such is the case of Melissa Spagnola, who only ever played the lottery when her parents purchased a ticket or scratcher for her. Luckily for her, at the beginning of 2019, her dad was feeling generous and bought a 100X The Bucks scratcher for her to play. Unbelievably, the ticket happened to hold the jackpot win of $2 million.
Melissa, who had never played the game before, asked her parents to look at the scratcher and confirm the win before contacting the lottery. After claiming her prize, she took her entire family on a well-deserved vacation in the Bahamas and then saved the rest of the money to ensure that she remains financially secure. Smart move.
Deise Ocampo: $4 Million
Way back in 2014, Deise Ocampo was just a teenager who was working hard to complete her schooling. On her 19th birthday, her father purchased her a lottery scratch card as a gift to celebrate her special day. Caught up by the daily grind of life, Denise completely forgot about the ticket until a chunk of time had passed. Eventually, she remembered the ticket and decided to see if she was a winner.
To her delight, the simple gift from her father turned out to be a ticket with winnings of $4 million! Denise quickly told the press that she would be using the money to purchase a nice house for her family and to finance her future education—a mature and great plan in our opinion.
Phyllis Penzo: $6 Million
The story of Phyllis Penzo and Robert Cunningham is the stuff of Hollywood movies. Back in 1984, Phyllis Penzo was working as a server at South Pizzeria in Yonkers, New York City, when one of her regular customers, NYPD detective Robert Cunningham, asked her if instead of a tip he could just buy a lottery ticket. If it won, he said, he would share the winnings with her 50/50. Having known Robert for 15 years, Phyllis agreed to the interesting proposition, and they both selected the numbers together.
A few mornings later, on one of her days off, Phyllis got a call from an overly excited Robert who was barely able to get the words out of his mouth: they had just won the $6 million jackpot! Considering it happened to be April Fool’s Day that day, Phyllis couldn’t take Robert seriously, but he persisted and eventually convinced her that, in fact, his incredible news was true. Needless to say, both of their lives changed drastically that day—and it’s quite possible neither of them ever went back to work.
Tonda Lynn Dickerson: $10 Million
Like Phyllis Penzo, Tonda Lynn Dickerson was a waitress at a diner (The Waffle House) in 1999 when a regular customer by the name of Edward Seward gifted her and four of her co-workers lottery tickets for the upcoming Florida Lotto draw. Prior to checking their tickets, the group had agreed that regardless of who won, they would split the winnings equally between them. However, this isn’t quite how things ended up going.
When Tonda found out that her ticket won $10 million, she got greedy and refused to share it with anybody else—even Edward, whose only stipulation if someone won was to buy him a new pick-up truck. Needless to say, her co-workers and Edward all felt betrayed by Tonda and even took her to court to get the share they felt was owed to them. Although the judge miraculously acknowledged their verbal agreement, Alabama law forbids all forms of gambling contracts, so they still lost the case.
The Tricky Question of Ownership
The above stories are great examples of family members and even friends blessing one another with perfectly chosen lottery gifts. Each of these stories—aside from Tonda Lynn Dickerson’s—had a happy ending where the lottery winners and the people who gave them the tickets both celebrated the win and used the money to better their circumstances.
Unfortunately, there are many stories where this happy ending does not occur. Instead, they generally end with the person who gifted the ticket claiming that all winnings gained by the ticket actually belong to them—after all, they are the ones who purchased the ticket. This has led many people to ask the question: if I receive a lottery ticket as a gift, who do the winnings belong to?
This question has led to many lawsuits and estranged relationships worldwide. However, the general consensus of the courts—and players—from around the world is the same: in any instance where you have been gifted a lottery ticket, the ticket legally becomes your property and belongs wholly to you as soon as the person gifts it to you. If the ticket happens to be a winning ticket after this fact, the person who purchased the ticket and gave it to you has no legal claim to the winnings.
However, like most people, you may be inspired to share some of the winnings with the person who gifted you the ticket. This can be done either by treating them to a relaxing holiday, giving them some cash, or even just taking them out for a great dinner. Regardless, the money would remain legally yours, and though you have no legal obligation to share any of it, morally it’s something most people would probably choose to do.
Of the billions of lottery tickets that are sold each year, being gifted one may seem like a strange thing at first. However, if you are one of the lucky few who is gifted a winning ticket, then make sure you appreciate what you've been given. After all, isn't the best type of gift one that just keeps on giving?