You can’t win if you don’t play, right? True. But even if you do play, there’s a darn good chance that you’ll never win. We all know your chances of winning a huge lottery jackpot are microscopic. But people do win, and many spend on some amazing things.

Oh, and yes – a rare Saturday post! I’m trying something new this year, so expect the unexpected and all that type of stuff…just having some fun!

Okay, back to the topic at hand.

What happens after you win? We’ve heard the horror stories of lottery winners going broke, and that’s true. Some do. In fact, lottery winnings can help fund incredibly destructive habits, like alcohol and drug abuse in the case of Willie Hurt who, after winning over $3 million in the Michigan lottery, separated from his wife, lost custody of his kids and was charged with attempted murder. Apparently, he had a crack cocaine addiction.

But, let’s not talk about the bad things that can happen to lottery winners. Instead, I was curious about some of the nicer or just downright weird things people spend that [not] hard earned money on.

Here’s what I found.

Weird, wild and awesome lottery spending

Allen and Violet Large who, almost eight years ago, won a whopping $11.2 million bucks in the lottery. They proceeded to donate the large majority of it to charities and hospitals. Talk about super cool. “That money that we won was nothing,” Allen told the Toronto Star. “We have each other.”

Awwwwww.

Chris and Colin Weir, Britain’s largest lottery winners, paid for a child’s surgery to help her walk. The child suffers from spastic diplegic cerebral palsy. The couple had also donated a five-figure sum to buy a prosthetic limb for a 13-year old cancer victim.

In a story that began with incredible luck but ended horribly, Evelyn Adams won the lottery twice back in the mid-80s. In total, she won $5.4 million. Feeling lucky, she grabbed her wad of cash, went to Atlantic City and lost it all. She’s now living in a trailer park.

Here’s an interesting one! A new water park opened in Green Island, NY in 2013 due in large part to donations from John and Linda Kutey who won more than $28 million in the lottery.

Les Robins won a huge $111 million jackpot in 1993 and used a portion of his winnings to start a summer day camp for kids in Wisconsin. “The camp near his waterfront home includes riding stables, a gym and pool, miniature golf course and enough powered water toys to keep campers ages 6 to 16 afloat on the lake.” Yup, I’d go!

British Columbia resident Bob Erb won $25 million in the lottery. While dining at a local restaurant, he heard that Cliff Luther – who works at the restaurant, has a daughter with cancer. Erb paid for his burger and fries with a $10,000 check and told Luther to keep the change.

The winner of the largest single Powerball jackpot in history offered to donate $2 million of her $590 million winnings ($278m after taxes) to Schneck High School in East Millinocket, Maine. Apparently, the roof needed repairs.

And lastly…

Check out this story of a homeless man in Illinois who won $50,000. Dennis Mahurin lives in a tent and, instead of moving out of his canvas dwelling with his winnings, instead vowed to give every homeless person in his community $100. “While some say that taking home the jackpot also comes with a curse, other down-and-out winners, like Mahurin, have shown that it’s possible to put the newfound cash to good use.”

The point in all this? Even though it may seem like the world is turning into a very nasty place, there’s still a ton of good that happens. Sometimes, we just need to look a little harder, but it’s there! Money isn’t always the root of evil. Sometimes – and you can ask Justin about this, it’s the root of good.

How the lottery works

In the United States, each state runs their own lottery system. In essence, it’s a form of gambling. The idea is to make selections in one or more games that will match when the game is run by the state. “A lottery is a form of gambling,” writes How Stuff Works. It’s gambling “that is run by the state. Most states have several different games, including instant-win scratch-off games, daily games and games where you have to pick three or four numbers.”

Usually, there are 50 different numbers to select from, but some states might use fewer numbers. It depends on the state.

Prize money grows because the odds are stacked against those who play. If someone wins the lottery every week, the pot won’t grow. Consecutive weeks without a winner is how lottery jackpots build into gigantic numbers.

If you happen to win it big (think millions), close to 40% will be taken out of your jackpot due to how the federal tax system works in the United States. Then, subtract state and other local taxes and you’re looking at around half of your winnings actually hitting your bank account. Winners have a choice between one lump sum paid at once or smaller payments over a number of years. Tax implications change based on what the winner chooses. The large majority of winners choose the lump sum option.

Though most lotteries were illegal in the United States (and the world) early in the 19th century, they began to re-appear in the 1960s “throughout the world as a means for governments to raise revenue without raising taxes.”

So, tell me: Have you ever played the lottery? Have you ever won anything? If so, how much did you win? 

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