Playing the Lottery
By Dr. Ken Matto
There is probably no more subtle sin among the Christian community than playing the lottery. With its enticements of millions of easy dollars and the idea of a care-free life that follows will cause many Christians to think about playing and going for the big score. Of course, Christians do not play the lottery for the same reason the world does because if we win millions we are going to give much to the ministry of the Lord. Yeah Right! And I have ocean front land in Kansas for your consideration too. The reason I know that we Christians play the lottery for these “noble” reasons is because since I became a Christian 38 years ago, I have played the lottery many times. By the way, the most I ever won was three dollars. That was my mea culpa.
A friend of mine told me that he knew a missionary that bought a lottery ticket and won two million dollars. It is these kinds of things that get Christians to think that God will let them win too, so instead of realizing that the lottery is a futile venture, they begin to play and soon they realize they have thrown their money (actually the Lord’s money) into a black hole.
(1 Cor 4:2 KJV) Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
The steward of God must be faithful in all areas. We are not only to give the Gospel to others and give our lives in faithful service to the Lord, but in all areas we are to be faithful and that includes money, which is the easiest area of our life to throw us off track. Let’s face the reality, if God wants me to have millions of dollars, does He REALLY need to use the lottery to accomplish that gift? I think not! In fact, the lottery causes many Christians to throw millions of dollars into the beast system of this world. In New Jersey, the lottery gives millions of dollars to colleges and universities. This means that Christians are helping support the very people who castigate Christians for bringing Bibles to colleges and is helping to educate many young people in evolution and promoting the sodomite lifestyle. It is as bad as Christians fighting against pornography and then buying an NIV so Rupert Murdoch can continue to air his pornography channels because he gets one dollar for every NIV sold, since he owns Zondervan which is owned by Harper Collins which is owned by him. A minister friend of mine told me once that he would never play the lottery because he would be afraid that he would win. He realizes that his testimony would be at stake. How could he counsel someone to stay away from gambling when he would be playing the lottery himself? As Christians it is so important that we covet our testimony and to keep it as spotless as we can. Many fall prey to the advertising come-on which accompanies lottery sales. Some of the catch slogans are:
New Jersey - Give Your dreams a Chance
Pennsylvania - Just Imagine What You Could Do With a Lifetime of Checks
Ohio - Raffle to Riches
North Dakota - If you don’t buy a ticket, how is lady luck going to find you?
South Dakota - Your Ticket to fun is here
Kansas - Put Yourself in a Winning State
Georgia - Today could be the Day
The catch slogans are used to sort of negate the reality of the odds of picking all the correct numbers. Some are below:
New Jersey Pick 6 - 1 in 13,983,816
Pennsylvania Match 6 - 1 in 4,661,272.3
Ohio Mega Millions - 1 in 175,711,536
As you can plainly see the odds of hitting the top prizes in these individual lotteries are astronomical, yet the justification comes when someone hits the top prize and that propels everybody else to go and continue to play, even with astronomical odds. Now we know that the world will continue to look to things like the lottery as their deliverer from the life of work and daily repetition. What about the Christian? Are there any consequences which can play out in a Christian’s life as a result of playing the lottery? There sure is and we need to look at them.
Proverbs 16:33
(Prov 16:33 KJV) The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.
Probably the main verse which everyone looks and compares to playing the lottery is Proverbs 16:33. However, this verse has nothing to do with playing the lottery. This verse refers to the ancient skill of casting lots to finalize an answer. In fact, the apostles used it to fill the office of Judas after his death. (Acts 1:26 KJV) And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. The lottery was not even around at that time. However, I am sure there were games of gambling back then but Proverbs 16:33 does not have anything to do with the lottery. It deals with the judgment or result of the lot which comes from the Lord. The lottery is not something which is of the Lord.
Divided Allegiance
Allegiance is basically devotion. When one begins to play the lottery with the idea propelling them that “maybe this is the winning ticket” there will be a steady devotion or allegiance to making sure that they have tickets for whatever game they are playing. No matter what is taking place, there will always be time to run to the store and buy lottery tickets. The lust of great wealth causes a divided allegiance. It temporarily turns a person from devotion to Christ with all their situations to a devotion to the lottery in hopes that if they win there will be alleviation of problems.
Divided Faith
Sometimes we get into our minds that just because we are Christians that God will allow us to hit the lottery so we can “tithe” the winnings. So we misdirect our faith toward the hopes that God will give us the winning ticket. When the numbers are being drawn, we sit there with bated breath and pray that our numbers will be drawn. Isn’t it something how people who own bars or are plain gamblers win the lottery? It makes us mad because we know that we are going it use the money for good. Yeah, right, we are going to do the same thing that the world does and that is quit our jobs and live a life of ease. Guess what? If God allowed every Christian to hit the lottery, then how would there be a Christian witness in places of employment? Our faith for our daily sustenance must be in the Lord and not millions of dollars which will only lead us astray.
Divided Finances
If there is one thing we can find money for, it will be for whatever we want and guess where the money for self-indulgence always seems to come from? You guessed it, money for ministry. The playing of the lottery is not a cheap venture because over the years it adds up. Even if you play the lottery for $2 per week, it adds up to $104 per year and play it for 20 years and you have $2080. If you would have placed that money in an interest bearing account, you would have $3859.25 at 5% interest. Playing the lottery, you have nothing. Even the Lord told the lazy servant that he should have put his money in the bank and on His return He would have earned interest. (Mat 25:26-27 KJV) His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strowed: {27} Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Guess what, by playing the lottery, we are also proving that we are wicked and slothful. Wicked for placing trust in the world system and slothful for desiring to just sit around all day and collect a fat check.
Divided Hope
Whenever we play the lottery, we are playing with hope that we will have the winning ticket. Our hope must be in the Lord at all times but when we play the lottery that hope becomes divided. We shift hope from the Lord to the numbers which are being drawn and when our numbers are losers, we become despondent because now we have to wait till the next drawing. Solomon had something to say about hope being deferred. (Prov 13:12 KJV) Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life. Of course, the Bible is teaching here about the coming of Christ. But we can glean the principle from the first part of this verse that when our hope is placed in the lottery and our numbers are not drawn, we now have to delay our hope until the next drawing and believe me when it is time for the next drawing our hope in the lottery comes alive again and that means we have divided hope between Christ and the world system.
Lottery versus Inheritance
When someone receives an inheritance or a gift of money, it is not the same thing as playing the lottery. Most of the times a person who receives such income is not aware that they will be coming into the money. However, when one comes into instant wealth, the outcome can be the same as a lottery winning. Handling money must be done with wisdom or else the foolish handling of it may lead to a ruinous life. Even a Christian can be brought down by the mishandling of money.
The Book of Proverbs
In the book of Proverbs there are some great principles that we may glean from and even though it does not speak directly about the lottery, we can still transfer these financial principles into our lives. We are going to look at 13 verses which may help us gain a good perspective on lottery gambling.
Righteous Labor Vs. Wicked Fruit
(Prov 10:16 KJV) The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin.
Any time a Christian engages in any type of a moneymaking scheme from the world system it is definitely sin. The lottery has come from the idea of the numbers racket which came from organized crime. Proverbs 16:10 is teaching us that we are to work and that work will give life. When God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, He commanded them to work the land by the sweat of their brow. Playing the lottery contradicts that command which means it goes directly against the command of God making it sin. This verse teaches us that the fruit of those actions are sin and are akin to those who are the unregenerate in the world. So when a Christian plays the lottery, they are emulating the world.
Riches versus Righteousness
(Prov 11:4 KJV) Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.
This verse basically deals with the fact that a person cannot count on their wealth to obtain Heaven. Someone who is very wealthy may start a foundation to help other people but it must be realized that foundations are the wealthy people’s way of shuffling money for tax breaks. Altruism among the wealthy is extremely rare. The principle which we can glean from this verse is that fact that as Christians, even if we are rich, does not carry any weight in heaven. If we won the lottery, it would probably cause a digression in our Christian walk. Now we will not be so quick to tithe on the big sum we receive. When we made a few hundred dollars a week, tithing or giving was a joyous part of our ministry. Then when large sums factor into the picture, the giving will normally be less. The essence of the Christian life is not how much money we have but what we did with what the Lord gave us.
Principle of Scattering and Withholding
(Prov 11:24 KJV) There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.
Whenever we choose to play the lottery, we will divert funds from whatever we think is most unnecessary. As I have stated previously, it normally comes from the funding of the Lord’s work. Those who give $40 dollars a month to the Lord’s work are scattering the seed worldwide to reach others for Christ. Those who spend $40 per month on the lottery are withholding that seed money and instead of increasing their wealth, will find themselves with less money. The scheme of big wealth feeds on the lust of humans and that is why the lottery is so popular all over the place. God promises that He will bless the giving of the money to the ministry but He will never bless those who waste it on the lottery.
Trusting in Riches
(Prov 11:28-29 KJV) He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch. {29} He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.
The lottery is the seed of increased gambling. When people start playing the lottery it ignites the passion of the lust for money. This can happen with Christians also as we are still in the flesh and have the same desires as many in the world have. Remember Elijah was a man of like passion but we Christians have one advantage over the unsaved, we have the Holy Spirit living within us to give us victory over these wrong desires. When we ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we are asking for serious trouble. Playing the lottery can become a serious contention between husbands and wives and can lead to serious marital problems. It diminishes the household finances and those finances can never be recovered. Finances is one of the major causes of marriages splitting up. There is a show which was on TV (August 2006) called “Windfall.” It was the continuing story of 20 people who hit a jackpot of 386 million dollars. The minute that the money was collected by the winners, adultery, murder, fornication, wild spending, etc. began to occur. This is how big money can trouble a home. If you have a good home and good family, don’t seek its ruin by attempting to collect big lottery money, you will eventually regret it.
Improper Wealth will be Diminished
(Prov 13:11 KJV) Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.
This verse teaches us that vain wealth will diminish, in other words when a person has received vain wealth such as a lottery winning, it will eventually diminish by means of waste. A person who makes $500 per week and then suddenly comes into ten million dollars, will begin to think that he or she has a bottomless pit of money. The fact is that 10 million is a limited amount. I remember some years back some men hit for millions of dollars in the New York lottery and very shortly after that they were already broke, simply because they did not know how to handle all that wealth. In the process of diminishing the wealth by wasting it, their life will also be wasted. I remember at a family barbecue we were discussing the lottery with its top prize of 60 million dollars. My brother had stated that if he won, he would go instantly to Wall Street and invest. I said to him, so they can turn your 60 million into 30 million? Do you see what happened? 60 million was not enough for someone making 50K per year. How ludicrous! I told him that the best way to handle that much money was to put it in the bank and draw a weekly paycheck. I think my brother was 55 at the time so I said to him, if you have 60 million dollars, you can write yourself a check for $10,000 per week for 6000 weeks. 6000 weeks equals 115 years. I doubt he would live to be 170. So he could write himself a check each week for $20,000 which would bring him to the ripe old age of 113 without depleting the principle. You mean a person cannot live on $20,000 per week? This is what I mean about instant wealth in the hands of those who are ill equipped to handle it.
Hasty Thoughts
(Prov 21:5 KJV) The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.
Those who work with their hands and see the bounty which the Lord provides through the principle of work sees themselves as having much. Those who look at the big lottery prizes and compare their present life to that only think of what they do not have and not what they have. These people do not thank the Lord for what he has given them. They tend only to look at what the lottery can give them. So they play the lottery and have less and less money because they throw their money away on hope in the world system. (Psa 118:8 KJV) It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust the Lord than place confidence in the schemes of man.
Oppressing the Poor?
(Prov 22:16 KJV) He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.
If there is one confirmed fact about the lottery, it is thousands of poor people, who really cannot afford to play, placing millions of dollars collectively in hopes that they will win. When a person wins the lottery, they are basically financially oppressing the poor by receiving all the money they put in. It is true, no one twisted their arm to play because it is greed and laziness driving people to play it but that does not change the fact that if you win, it is the money of poor people coming to you. One of the things that people do when they hit the lottery is move out of their home or apartment and into a bigger home. They, in essence, have abandoned their poorer neighborhood and have gone to join arm in arm with the wealthy folks. God states that you will never prosper and that you will come to want. The problem with many instant millionaires is that they spend without control and that is when they start to build great debt and then when their possessions are repossessed, they go in want. Playing the lottery has far deeper consequences than just buying a ticket.
Rob the Poor
(Prov 22:22-23 KJV) Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: {23} For the LORD will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.
When one wins the lottery, they have robbed the poor. Many people cannot afford to live or buy food yet they always have money for booze, cigarettes, or lottery tickets. A Christian has no business collecting the money from those who may be abusing or starving their families just to play the lottery. If someone hits the big one, let it be an unbeliever because if they never become saved, it is the only bit of joy they will know before Judgment Day. Anyway with God as our source of life, why do we believe that millions of dollars will improve our life? It is just another lie the devil tells us so we can join the beast system of this world.
Buy the Truth
(Prov 23:23 KJV) Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
This is one of those verses which require a little thought. Of course, what is in view here is salvation. No one can “buy” salvation but that word is just a synonym for becoming saved. The truth in view is Christ Himself. (Rev 3:18 KJV) I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. We see a similar verse in Revelation where the Lord Jesus is counseling the Laodicean church to buy “gold tried in the fire.” That is, the true salvation given by Christ.
Let us look at proverbs 23:23 in a literal sense as a command to believers to work out their salvation as commanded in Philippians 2:12. Let us look at it as a financial command. If we buy a lottery ticket, are we buying the truth? Of course not, we are buying a game of chance which puts the Lord’s money into an evil scheme. Now let us ask what should we buy with the Lord’s money. How about buying Bible Tracts for evangelism? How about buying King James Bibles to give away as part of your ministry? How about buying things for missionaries? What about buying things for Christians who have need right in your own church? Do you see? When we are committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, we will buy the proper things which are totally void of the world system and all its snares. (2 Cor 2:11 KJV) Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. If we spiritually analyze the devices which are so freely before us, we will stay out of trouble and on the straight and narrow.
Righteous Going Astray
(Prov 28:10 KJV) Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession.
One of the biggest snares that Christians who play the lottery fall into is justifying it by telling other Christians that it is okay for them to play. If it is not permissible for a Christian to fornicate, why would it be permissible for them to gamble? The funds which the Lord gives us are not to be used to gamble but for living and for the expansion of the Kingdom. Sinning is always easier when you have a partner. The Bible warns us that we are never to bring another brother or sister into sin. It is our responsibility to care for the spiritual welfare of other Christians and causing them to share our sins is grievous in the sight of God.
Quick Riches
(Prov 28:22 KJV) He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.
One final warning about quick riches is that as we have already seen that God tells us we are to work for a living and those who are attempting to be rich in a hasty manner will go in the opposite direction and that is toward poverty. No one can ever prosper violating the commands of the Lord, no matter what area they are in.
An Interesting Passage with an Interesting Principle
(2 Sam 24:21-24 KJV) And Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, To buy the threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar unto the LORD, that the plague may be stayed from the people. {22} And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood. {23} All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee. {24} And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
David had sinned against the Lord and wanted to build an altar to sacrifice unto the Lord so the plague which he had caused would be stayed. It is interesting that David wanted to buy the threshingfloor but Araunah wanted to give David the floor for nothing because he was the king. David had refused the offer and insisted on paying for it and then says something very interesting, “neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing.” Isn’t it something that David refused to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord without it costing him anything. When Christians play the lottery, one of the things they claim they will do with the winnings is to give money to ministry, whether it is their church or an organization. The principle is that if you did not work for the money or receive it legitimately in a non-sinful manner, then you are not giving anything to the Lord because it did not cost you anything. How can a Christian make a sacrifice to the Lord if it cost them nothing. On the other hand, those who toiled at work and give to the Lord, they are giving the true sacrificial way because it cost them something. Anybody can give a donation when it costs them nothing but true giving is defined by what went into the gift and not the amount given. True ministries of the Lord do not need nor should they knowingly accept lottery winnings. God looks at the true givers not just givers. (He who has ears to hear.)
I hit before I became Saved
If you hit the lottery before you became saved then you won while you were still an unbeliever whose faith and hope was in the world system. Just continue to use the finances as you did before except now you must be wiser with the money. If you do have a lottery income, instead of sitting around a pool all day you can now volunteer to do work at a church or a mission and the help is always needed, especially when it comes free to the mission or church. What you hoped would be a life of useless laziness can now be a life to help others and send forth the Gospel to the world. One of the great tenets of giving is not just giving money but the giving of ourselves. (Rom 12:1 KJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. A living sacrifice is one who is dead while alive. Dead to the things of the world and alive to the things of the Lord. A lottery lazy life can be turned around to the glory of God.
Final Thoughts
Playing the lottery is sinful for the Christian. It diverts our hope and faith from Christ to a worldly scheme. It deceives us because we think if we hit that we are going to give huge chunks of money to the ministry. (Psa 24:1 KJV) The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. The Bible teaches us that God owns everything in this world and that means all the money, so He does not need your pittance (even in the millions) to evangelize the earth till the last day. As I stated before, does God really need to use the lottery if He wants to give you millions? If God wants to give you millions, it is not for your ease and comfort but for some reason. One needs to look at the life of R. G. LeTourneau and see how he gave millions to the sending forth of the Gospel. He did not use the lottery but as he made money he gave money. He gave up to 90% to the cause of Christ. Don’t allow satanic greed to influence you to get into a life of sin. Playing the lottery is a gateway to deeper sin, don’t take that first step because even that first step will affect your finances and could incur the chastising hand of God upon you.
(Eccl 5:10 KJV) He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.
From: (Thomas Brooks, "The Transcendent Excellency of a Believer's Portion above All Earthly Portions")
Worldly portions can never satisfy the souls of men.

Absalom's beauty could not satisfy him.
Haman's honor could not satisfy him.
Ahab's kingdom could not satisfy him.
Balaam's gold could not satisfy him.
Ahithophel's wisdom could not satisfy him.
The pharisees' learning could not satisfy them.
The rich man's riches in Luke 16 could not satisfy him.
Do you think winning the Lottery will be able to satisfy you?  It didn’t satisfy the following:
In the book, "Money for Nothing: One Man’s Journey through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions," Edward Ugel says the “broke or financially troubled lottery winners are the rule.”

In fact, the consequences of winning the lottery are often more frightful than mere financial trouble.

Evelyn Adams, who won the New Jersey lottery in 1985 and 1986 for a total of $5.4 million, gambled and gave away all her winnings and by 2001 was poor and living in a trailer.

Teresa Brunnings, who won $1.3 million in a lottery in 1985, says that she had a party then, but, “Of all the people who came, not one speaks to me now.”

Michael Carroll, who won about $17 million in a lottery in England in 2003, said he only had $3 million left in early 2006. He told the press, “I regret ever winning the lottery. I’ve spent $2 million on drugs and given $7 million to friends and family.”

Karen Cohen, who won $1 million in the Illinois state lottery in 1984, filed for bankruptcy in 2000 and in 2006 was sentenced to 22 months in jail for lying to federal bankruptcy court.

Jeffrey Dampier, who won $20 million, was kidnapped and murdered by his own sister-in-law.

Ed Gildein, who won $8.8 million in the Texas lottery in 1993, gambled away most of the money and left his wife with a slew of debts when he died in 2003. In 2005 Ed’s widow, Janice, was sued by her daughter who claimed that she was taking money from a trust fund and squandering cash in Las Vegas. The daughter lost the case and mother and daughter agreed to “divorce” themselves from one another.

Noreene Gordon, who, with her husband James, won a $52 million Florida lottery in 2000 says, “It’s a nightmare.” She told Tampa Bay Online that “people come out of the walls to take advantage of you every day of your life.”

Billie Bob Harrell, Jr., who won $37 million a Texas lottery in 1997, committed suicide less than two years later after his spending habits had spiraled out of control and strained his marriage severely. Shortly before his death, Harrell confided to a financial adviser: “Winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”

Willie Hurt, who won $3.1 million in Michigan in 1989, spent his fortune on divorce and crack cocaine and within two years was broke and charged with murder.

Michael Klingebiel, who won a $2 million lottery, was sued in 1998 by his own mother, who said he failed to share the jackpot.

Janite Lee, who won $18 million in 1993 in Missouri, filed for bankruptcy just eight years later and had only $700 left.

Mack Metcalf, who won $65 million in a Kentucky lottery in 2000, divorced his second wife, gave away half a million dollars to a former girlfriend when he was drunk, was sued by his first wife for unpaid child support, and died in 2003 at age 45 of alcoholism. Metcalf’s second wife, Virginia, who shared his jackpot, bought a mansion, surrounded herself with stray cats, and died of a drug overdose the same year Mack died.

Paul McNabb, who was Maryland’s first lottery millionaire, ended up driving a cab in Las Vegas.

Suzanne Mullins, who won $4.2 million a Virginia lottery in 1993, could not pay her bills 11 years later and was sued unsuccessfully for nonpayment of a loan.

Kenneth and Connie Parker, who won $25 million, divorced just months after “striking it rich.”

After William Post won $16.2 million in a Pennsylvania lottery in 1988 his brother tried to hire a contract killer to hit him and his wife. When he declared bankruptcy in 1993 he said, “Everybody dreams of winning money, but nobody realizes the nightmares that come out of the woodwork, or the problems.” When he died in 2006 he was living on his meager monthly Social Security check and The Washington Post headlined his obituary “The Unhappy Lottery Winner.”

Ken Proxmire, who won $1 million in a Michigan lottery, was bankrupt within five years.

Charles Riddle, who won $1 million in Michigan in 1975, got divorced, faced several lawsuits, and was indicted for selling cocaine.

After Juan Rodriguez won $149 million in a New York lottery, his wife of 17 years filed for divorce and took half of his winnings.

After Lewis Snipes’ wife won $31.5 million in 1988, her husband disagreed with her and her sisters over whether to accept the lump sum payout. The matter was litigated for four years and split the family apart.

Thomas Strong, who won $3 million in a Texas lottery in 1993, died in a shoot-out with police in 2006.

Shefik Tallmadge, who won $6.7 million in the Arizona lottery in 1988, declared bankruptcy in 2005.

Rhoda Toth, who, together with her husband Alex, won $13 million in 1990, is in prison for income tax fraud. Within two years after hitting the lottery jackpot, the Toths were borrowing money to pay bills and were living in a trailer without electricity. In 2008, Alex died “hating life” and Rhoda pled guilty to filing false tax returns and was sentenced to two years in prison. She says, “The winning ticket ruined my life.”

Jack Whittaker, who won $314 million in a lottery in December 2002, has been sued for bouncing checks at a casino, was divorced by his wife, was ordered to undergo rehab because of drunken driving, was sued by the father of a teenager who was found dead in one of Whittaker’s houses, and took to drink. And he had pampered his teenage granddaughter, Brandi Bragg, with four new cars and a $2000 a week allowance, she died of a drug overdose. Whittaker’s ex-wife, Jewell, said, “If I knew what was going to transpire, honestly, I would have torn the ticket up.” In July 2009 Brandi’s mother, Ginger, was found dead at age 42.

Victoria Zell, who shared an $11 million Powerball jackpot with her husband in 2001, was penniless by 2006 and serving seven years in a Minnesota prison, having been convicted in a drug-and alcohol-induced collision that killed someone.

Abraham Shakespeare, who received $13 million from the Florida state lottery in 2006, spent the money in a little over two years and was murdered by someone who was probably one of his newfound “friends.” His relatives said that he was “miserable early on from his newfound fortune” (“Trust was costly for Shakespeare,” The Tampa Tribune, Feb. 4, 2010). In January 2007 he purchased a million-dollar home and then sold it for a loss of $350,000 two years later to a woman who said that she wanted to write the story of his life. In January 2010 Shakespeare’s body was found buried under a slab of concrete on the property.