Why Winning the Lottery Is Dangerous

by J Warner Wallace

Not long ago, a single ticketholder won the Pennsylvania Powerball jackpot valued at 456.7 million dollars, becoming an instant millionaire like few others in the history of state lotteries. Are you feeling a bit envious? Don’t be. Winning the lottery can be bad for your health, in more ways than one. In fact, winning the lottery can be dangerous.

Past lottery winners seem to understand that. The New Hampshire winner of February’s 559.7 million-dollar Powerball jackpot, for example, went to court recently in an effort to keep her name anonymous. Her attorney explained her concern: “She is a longtime resident of New Hampshire and is an engaged community member… She wishes to continue this work and the freedom to walk into a grocery store or attend public events without being known or targeted as the winner of a half-billion dollars.” That’s an understandable concern, given what’s happened to past lottery winners.

For some, winning the lottery was physically dangerous. Abraham Shakespeare was murdered in 2009 after winning a $30 million jackpot. The suspect, a woman who befriended Shakespeare after he won the lottery, shot him twice in the chest and then buried him under a slab of concrete.

For some, winning the lottery was emotionally dangerous. In 2006, Sandra Hayes won the Missouri lottery, splitting a $224 million prize. Her win was emotionally damaging. “I had to endure the greed and the need that people have, trying to get you to release your money to them. That caused a lot of emotional pain. These are people who you’ve loved deep down, and they’re turning into vampires trying to suck the life out of me.”

For some, winning the lottery was behaviorally dangerous. Ronnie Music Jr., for example, won $3 million in a Georgia lottery but found the temptation to make even more money too great and eventually invested part of his winnings in a crystal methamphetamine ring. He recently started serving a 21-year sentence for the crime.

Stories like these are not unusual. In fact, they’re more the norm than the exception…

Why Winning the Lottery Is Dangerous