Lottery Winners Who Blew It All

April 18, 2024
10 mins read

From a study done on behavioral patterns in 2021, the probability of lottery ticket buyers becoming rich instantly, and then broke almost as quickly was about 70%. Some of them even got into financial trouble instead of enjoying a debt-free life, and others suffered bigger problems including broken marriages, substance abuse and addiction, and various illegal activities. There were about three common reasons why it repeatedly happens, no matter what race, culture, or gender of the lottery winner – bad accounting, poor investments, and incredibly careless spending.

What are the popular lottery games right now?

People enjoy buying lottery tickets because everyone loves to entertain the idea of “what ifs.” In reality, winning the grand prize is an incredibly long shot, considering that there are millions of people betting every single day. While the chances of winning the jackpot prize in lotteries are dismally low, having that one chance to win it gives people a special kind of thrill. Here are two of the most popular lotto games available in the market right now:

Mega Millions (jackpot prize-winning odds of 1 in 302,575,350)

The thought of holding hundreds of millions of dollars courtesy of a winning lottery ticket worth two dollars has made Mega Millions one of the most popular lottery games out there. It’s one of the easiest games to play, because a person only needs to choose six numbers and the grand prize can be claimed if those numbers matched those drawn, in any order. In some states, they offer another game called Megaplier, where a person can win non-jackpot prizes 2x to 5x but it costs an additional dollar. The game’s estimated jackpots are done by finance representatives, along with lottery directors, as per each state’s individual sales forecast. However, the advertised estimated value may not always match the actual jackpot amount. The lottery tickets for Mega Millions are only available in most states in the US, except Nevada, Utah, Alabama, Alaska and Hawaii. People living in the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands can avail of this game as well.

Powerball (jackpot prize-winning odds of 1 in 292,201,338)

Just like Mega Millions, the Powerball lottery game is available to the same states, with the addition of Puerto Rico. The minimum bet for one play is two dollars – a player can choose five numbers from 69 white balls and another number from 26 red balls called the Powerball. The red ball can match any number included in the chosen five white balls. When drawn, the order of the numbers doesn’t matter as long as it matched the ones on the ticket. However, the drawn white balls cannot be interchanged with the red Powerballs and vice-versa. There are also non-jackpot games that can be won, such as Power Play which is somewhat similar to Megaplier.

Playing lotto games 101

Lottery games have attracted millions of people since their inception, and in a study made in 2018, it was reported that close to $8 billion was spent by Americans on lottery tickets. A ticket may only cost two dollars at the very least to participate in the game, but the players most especially the new ones should be knowledgeable on the basics of the game to be guided accordingly.


Who can buy lotto tickets in the US?

Anyone who is 18 years of age and above can buy lotto tickets, play lotto games, and claim prizes. Even non-US residents are allowed to participate in the game. However, not all the states and jurisdictions follow the same rules and regulations as to how to calculate the taxable amount from the winnings, and the details on how to claim them. For people outside the US, it’s important to be aware that they cannot buy a lottery ticket online, as it’s illegal to sell and purchase them outside the US. Several websites offer lottery tickets online, but what they were actually offering was the chance to bet on the result of the lottery. Some people have been confused about it, and felt that they were scammed.

How to claim the lotto prizes?

It’s not unheard of when the lottery prizes were claimed via the winner’s registered email, because it’s allowed.  However, to actually win a US lottery game, the individual must be present in the country during the time of purchase. Putting a signature on the back of the lottery ticket is a must to be able to claim it. Getting the prize money as soon as possible is highly recommended by lottery officials, because each state has a different period of validity.

Largest payouts in the lottery games jackpot prizes

The odds of winning a lottery grand prize from Powerball and Mega Millions might be quite diminutive, but it doesn’t stop the general public from ‘betting’ on them, inspired partly by those lucky individuals who’ve become instant multi-millionaires. The largest payout recorded from lottery winnings was when Powerball gave close to $1.6 billion to three ticket holders on 13 January 2016; the winners came from Florida, Tennessee and California.


The next one on the list was to a Mega Millions lottery ticket holder from South Carolina who won $1.537 billion on 23 October 2018. Three years later, another Mega Millions lottery winner from Michigan was paid a little over $1.05 billion on 22 January 2021. The next three on the list of huge winnings were in the spectrum of $730 to 760 million, all from Powerball lottery games, with winners coming from Massachusetts, Maryland and Wisconsin. The remaining four huge payouts from the top ten list were in the range of $600 million.

Bankrupt Lottery Winners – from rags to riches, and then rags again

One of the many great quotes that have been passed on about money is that “Money is the root of evil.” It may be true in some aspects, but generally it’s the person’s perspective on it that was evil, as with the many cases of former lottery jackpot winners who went from being poor or average to being rich or insanely rich, and then back to becoming poor again, or worse dirt poor, with wrecked lives. Here’s a list of four individuals who once upon a time were multi-millionaires, but no longer, and their tragic stories:

2002 – lottery jackpot winner of $314 million, Andrew Jack Whittaker

Anyone who thought that Jack Whittaker wouldn’t worry about finances again for the rest of his life, and even his grandchildren’s life, because of his Powerball winnings of $314 million, were so wrong. He was involved in a construction business for 12 years, and was the president of Diversified Enterprises Construction before he even won the lottery. He wasn’t living a poor or average lifestyle when he won the lottery, because his net worth was around $17 million at that time. It was ironic that he wasn’t really into lottery games, and he would only buy a ticket when the pot money was already $100 million or above. He was just one lucky man; when he claimed his lottery winnings, he chose the cash option of $170.5 million and when taxes were deducted, he took home about $114 million.

Jack did what he promised to do if he became a lottery winner, including donating to his church, helping the store owner where he bought the ticket, as well as giving money to his neighbors and friends – unfortunately, he liked the idea of giving handouts to just about anyone. He was also robbed twice, in his car; the first time it happened, about half a million inside a suitcase was taken from him, and the second time he was robbed of $200,000 which was later recovered. When he was asked why he kept so much money with him and he replied, “Because I can.” He also loved going to strip clubs.

Things just went haywire in his life, such as dealing with gambling losses, and his daughter and granddaughter were reported to have died from drug overdoses – the latter’s body was found wrapped in plastic and dumped, which indicated that she was killed. When he was sued for not paying his dues, he claimed that some crooks allegedly stole his money from the 12 branches of banks where he had an account. To make his situation worse, he lost his uninsured home to a fire. and was arrested for drinking under the influence. When he died in 2020, his money had run out.


2001 – $27 million lottery ticket winner and ex-felon, David Lee Edwards

Another example of what reckless spending can do to a multi-millionaire lottery winner was the story of David Lee Edwards. He spent a third of his life in prison for various reasons, but his luck changed, or so everyone thought when he bought a Powerball lottery ticket from a small Kentucky outlet. He won $27 million, but instead of sticking to the financial plan that his financial adviser, James Gibbs, recommended to him, such as investing in bonds and stocks, he deviated from the long-term plan. He could have enjoyed $85,000 a month from his stocks for the rest of his life, if he hadn’t sold them to fund his shopping sprees.

David lived a lavish lifestyle with a huge mansion in Florida, a private plane, and an antique sword collection. However, five years later he was financially broke, living in a trailer with human feces in it. It was reported that he spent around $10 million or more within the first year after he claimed his winnings. Twelve years later, he died in a hospice with no money to his name. His daughter, Tiffani Lee, revealed that she did not inherit anything from her father, and to make matter worse, with the millions he had before, it never occurred to him to purchase a life insurance policy.

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2009 – Americo Lopes cheated his co-workers of the shared $38.5 million jackpot prize

Some people prefer joining a lottery pool to better the chances of winning the jackpot prize, even if the odds were only a little higher than those of buying a solo lottery ticket. When the jackpot prize went up to $543 million in the Mega Millions lottery in July 2009, Americo Lopes and 10 of his co-workers decided to pitch in funds. He was the one they trusted to buy the ticket for the group, however, when he realized that they’d won, he quit his work but kept it secret from everyone. He told his office manager that he needed foot surgery immediately, and lied that he could no longer perform his work efficiently. To avoid being discovered, he even applied for unemployment benefits.

To hide his winnings, he opted to take the lump sum which reduced the prize money from $38.5 to $27 million, and when the taxes were deducted, he was left with $17.5 million. He paid off his house mortgage of $380,000 and then purchased a new Chevy truck. He was generous with his family, and spent about $250,000 to make them happy. He even made an early payment for his annual taxes. Americo would not have been caught if only he’d kept his mouth shut, but he couldn’t help himself, and shared with one of his former co-workers who told everyone about it. He already had the (almost) perfect excuse when he was asked, and told the others that he’d won using another ticket.

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However, Mega Million has always documented the winners, and his co-workers found out that he’d lied. They sued him, and the judge immediately froze his assets. The others were able to prove that there was a lottery pool going on in their office because they had many witnesses. The judge ordered that Americo split the money evenly with his co-workers. Since he was the only one who decided to take the lump sum option which reduced their winnings, he was also ordered by the courts to give everyone in the group $4 million each, based on the original prize money. He ended up with no money, and was in debt.

1988 – $16.2 million winner William “Bud” Post

William “Bud” Post couldn’t believe his luck when he won the Pennsylvania Lottery of $16.2 million in 1988 – he chose to receive a fraction of his prize annually for the next 26 years, which was a great decision on his part instead of getting a lump sum, because it limited him to spending just about $450,000 a year. However, five years later, he shared during an interview that he wished he’d been more careful with the money, and had made plans on how to invest it well. It was unfortunate that after three months of winning, he already owed half a million dollars, having shared his money with his family, and spent too much of it buying impractical things.


Within just two weeks of collecting his first annual payment, he’d spent around $300,000 helping his siblings with leases for a restaurant business, acquiring a liquor license, as well as a used-car lot. It would have been great if they all succeeded with their businesses. He also made a foolish purchase of a private plane even though he didn’t have a pilot’s license. His relationship with his siblings soured, and to make things worse one of his brothers hired a hitman to try and kill him. Bud was also sued by his former landlady-girlfriend for not sharing the jackpot prize, since they’d both pooled money for the lottery ticket. He lost the case, and the judge proceeded to freeze his assets.

To get out of this predicament, he sold the remaining 17 annual lottery payments via an auction so he could pay his bills, and set aside money for his future. He thought that once people heard that he was no longer a lottery winner, they would leave him alone. It could have worked out, if he’d discontinued his lavish lifestyle, but no – so it didn’t take long for him to lose his remaining millions. It also didn’t help that he had six failed marriages. He was arrested on his $260,000- valued boat in 1998 on an impending warrant for an assault conviction. Bud served his six to a twenty-four-month jail sentence. By the time he was out, he was already penniless, and had to rely on a $450 monthly disability check.

2005 – Roger and Lara Griffiths with $2.76 million

Compared to the other lottery jackpot winners, Roger and Lara Griffiths ‘only’ won £1.8 million which was less than $3 million when converted into US dollars, but their spending behavior was quite similar to the other big winners. After they won in England, they immediately purchased a luxurious converted barn-house, and a new Porsche. It would have been alright if they’d stopped there, but instead of investing their remaining money well, they pursued their impractical passions and hobbies. Roger spent thousands of money just to record a song with his high school band, fulfilling a life-long dream, while Lara bought luxury branded handbags.

Then… Lara discovered her husband’s extra-marital affairs, through his careless emails. They fought about it, along with their overspending, and decided to part ways after being married for 14 years. Roger revealed that there was no more money left in their savings, and when their beauty spa business failed, everything came tumbling down. To make matters even worse, their dream house was destroyed by a fire, but they could still have bounced back if they’d insured it, but that didn’t even enter their minds back then. They both ended up with huge debts, and Lara is now working at the spa business that she once owned, to support their children, while Roger went back to his parent’s house, saying in an interview that he only have £7 in his name.

Martha Clifford

As an Author at Net Worth Post, I guide a dedicated team in the art of revealing the stories behind the world's most influential personalities. Fueled by a relentless curiosity and a knack for uncovering hidden stories, I immerse myself in the intricacies of our subjects' lives, weaving together accurate data and compelling narratives. My involvement spans the entire editorial process, from the seed of research to the final flourish of publication, ensuring that every article not only educates but also captivates and motivates our audience.

At Net Worth Post, we are committed to providing thorough investigations into the net worth and life achievements of innovators across diverse sectors such as technology, culture, and social entrepreneurship. My method merges meticulous research with eloquent storytelling, designed to bridge the gap between our readers and the remarkable individuals who redefine our tomorrow. Through spotlighting their journeys to success, the hurdles they've surmounted, and their contributions to society, we aim to give our readers a deep and inspiring insight into the luminaries who are paving the way for progress and ingenuity in the modern era.

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