From death threats to letters from distant family begging for money – there are many reasons why lottery winners would choose to conceal their good fortune. Yet many are equally happy to be shown on national TV with giant cheques and champagne. Given the risks winners face, why would anyone go public?
By Phil Taylor
The lottery is many people’s dream to win as it is incredibly life changing with millions of pounds on offer for the lucky winner. It can come with many complications and one being the quick fame with many people’s stories picked up by the newspapers and media outlets. However, can people stay out of the limelight and avoid the unwanted publicity of winning such large amounts?
The lottery has engaged the public of many countries across the world for years; there is a national lottery in each continent. People buy into the lottery because of the chance to change their life. Figures do vary each week but there can be monumental amounts of money available. The biggest win ever was $1.54 billion and there were three winners of this jackpot in the USA! They kept themselves anonymous and were advised to delete all of their social media accounts before claiming the money.
So is it the right thing to come out about winning sums this large? Especially given that this money could nearly buy you Manchester United football club. It is a mixed bag with the amount of people who want to keep their identity to themselves but many do want to be in the papers or the news to talk about their winnings. But why?
One of the reasons people are encouraged to do it is publicity for the national lottery game. If people can see the average Joe winning millions upon millions of pounds then they might wonder, if it can happen to them it could happen to me. This thought has even spurred on the tagline from the lottery “It might be you” to make people wonder and dream.
However, some people do not want the burden of being known as the people who won the lottery. They feel they are exposed to the world and are putting themselves in a greater risk situation with people knowing that they have won a huge amount of money. This is specifically the case in America where there are constant battles between lottery winners and state laws which means they cannot stay anonymous without a lot of legal trouble.
“Jackpot winners get a big old target painted on their backs,” said Andrew Stoltmann, an Illinois attorney who has represented winners.
“When their names are released “they get harassed and harangued into some horrifically bad investments.”
“Forcing people to reveal their names, is like throwing meat into a shark-infested ocean”.
In America, states are rethinking how people can stay out of the limelight. States such as Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina already allow winners to remain anonymous. But more and more states including Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, will allow a trustee, usually an attorney, to collect without disclosing the name of the ticket holder.
The support offered in the United Kingdom and Ireland is much better. In the UK, Camelot offer full support in how to deal with the media if you choose to go public. The same applies in Ireland as the national lottery offer support for winners over €2 million to deal with the shock of life changing money and that support is in place even if you choose not to go public.
Camelot spoke after a massive €105 million win on the EuroMillions by English couple Steve and Lenka Thomson, stating that it is often easier to come out rather than hiding away because that causes complications. The spokesperson said, “The decision is solely down to the individual and no pressure is put on them to step into the spotlight.”
“But previous winners have spoken about the difficulty of remaining anonymous, arguing it can put a bigger strain on the win than accepting the 15 minutes of fame.”
This sentiment was echoed by Colin and Christine Weir who bagged £161 million in 2011, “We would have preferred to stay anonymous, but we recognised it wasn’t a possibility,”
“We wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the experience if we had constructed lies to tell our nearest and dearest.”
Camelot also cited that many people are left worrying about the day a knock at the door will come if they have not gone public. The fear can lead to paranoia and people wondering if someone will find out about the vast amount of money they have won because the National Lottery are obligated to state that somebody has won the jackpot or large sums of money.
The publicity, despite the support, can lead to many difficult situations even with the nearest and dearest that the Weirs stated here. It could lead to awkward issues of lending money to friends and family or making investments in something you are not too keen about.
As stated before, in the UK it is solely up to the winners themselves if they decide to make themselves known to the public because the attention can be too much for some people. In 2002, Mickey Carroll aged just 19, won £9 million and he rose to fame as the self-proclaimed “King of the Chavs”. Coming into so much money and being so much in the public eye, led to Carroll making poor decisions with his money. After much drama including time spent in prison, attacks on his mansion and a documentary made about him, Carroll was broke and applied for his old job as a bin man in 2010.
This shows that it can be difficult not to live the lavish lifestyle without the attention of the press. However, if you make smart decisions with the money then you can still live your normal life without the unwanted attention.
If you take the full support from the national lottery and go public with it, it can help you get your head around the win and deal with the change.
So from what might have sounded like a strange decision, it might be the best thing to come out into the public eye and accept your win. The main thing to remember is to be smart with your winnings.
Photo credit – Camelot UK Lotteries Ltd