New Zealand may be a relatively new country, but it has a long history of lottery jackpots and its national lottery (known simply as “Lotto”) has given away more than $30 billion in its three decade history.
That is a lot of money paid out to a lot of winners, and once you add the additional lottery games, as well as scratch-cards, those numbers increase further. But what happened to all those big winners after they picked up their cheques and disappeared from the headlines?
Trevor Cooper Lives it Up
37 year old Trevor Cooper is one of the more outspoken, media-friendly jackpot winners in recent years. The checkout operator scooped $27 million in 2012 and proclaimed “nothing is going to change.” But things did change for Mr. Cooper and while he insisted that he was going to remain at his job, he soon skipped town and began spending a lot of time in the US.
He bought off-road racing bikes and buggies, spent time racing in the US, and even bought properties over there. He married in 2013 and bought several houses in New Zealand, including a mansion that he and his wife sold in 2014 for a $300,00 profit.
History is littered with stories of lottery winners blowing their big wins on failed businesses, cars and houses, before ending up penniless. But Cooper seems to have kept his life together and while he has ducked out of the media spotlight in recent years, he seems to be still enjoying his newfound wealth.
To Good Health
An anonymous Powerball winner planned good deeds 10 days before they had even won the lottery. They saw the name of a donor on the back of an ambulance and made a promise to themselves, “If I ever win the Lotto, I would like to do the same thing”. Their life had been saved by the quick-thinking work of an emergency team many years earlier, so it was something that meant a lot to them.
And they were able to follow-through with that promise when they won $5.5 million shortly afterwards. They donated 2 ambulances to their local hospital, and those ambulances now proudly state “donated by a Lotto winner”.
The anonymous donor hopes that their actions will inspire other winners to follow in their footsteps.
Lucky, Unlucky, Lucky
A central Auckland man went to hell and back for his lottery winnings when he won and lost his fortune before he even collected it.
The winner, who chose to remain anonymous, considered himself a lucky man, so when his flatmate told him that his local supermarket had sold the winning ticket, he had a feeling that he was the lucky winner.
He allowed himself to enjoy the idea of being a winner for another 10 days before he actually decided to check. He visited the supermarket, checked with the self-checking machine and discovered that he was one of the big winners after all. To celebrate his win, he bought a case of beer and then took them home.
Only on arriving back home did he realise that he had lost his ticket. In a moment of panic he remembered that he had placed it on the roof of his car when putting the beers in the backseat, only to drive away without picking it up.
It was a busy street, so he didn’t fancy his chances of the ticket still being there when he returned, but it was. His luck had deserted him, but only briefly and he picked up the jackpot in the end.
Other Bizarre Stories of Lottery Winners and Frauds
In 1987 a player tried to fraudulently claim a $1 million prize with tactics that would make any self-respecting con-artist cringe. They bought a ticket after the draw and chose the winning numbers before cutting and pasting those numbers onto a losing ticket. This was over 30 years ago, when cut and pasting literally meant cutting something from one place and pasting it into another. So when organisers received the ticket they quickly realised it was fraudulent and passed it onto police.
In 1989 it was discovered that 21 people had won the first prize of $1.1 million. Each of those winners no doubt thought they had won more, and that they had even become millionaires, but in the end they walked away with just over $50,000 a piece.
A young player from Dunedin was once mistakenly given a Lotto ticket when he had intended to buy an instant scratch card. Not wanting to cause a fuss, he kept the ticket anyway, and it would go on to win him over $400,000!
Billions of lottery winnings go unclaimed every year without knowing who or why, but in 2006 organisers learned the fate of one unclaimed jackpot. A player from Greymouth had scooped $250,000. They seemingly lived long enough to learn of their win, but not to cash it. Legend has it that they were buried with the ticket.
In 1993 a Motueka man was left distraught when he won a $1.3 million jackpot only to be told that there was an error on his card and that he could not claim the money. Apparently, a malfunctioning machine meant that the words “Please Check Your Numbers” had not been printed, thus invalidating the card and leaving this winner with a feeling of frustration and loss that you wouldn’t even wish on your worst enemy.
In 2003 a South Auckland man earned a shot at the title of “Luckiest ever New Zealander” when they won both the Lotto and the Powerball with more or less the same numbers. They scooped an impressive $150,000 on the Lotto and then won just under $4 million on the Powerball. Both cards used the same 6 numbers, with one additional number to meet the requirements of the Powerball. They became the first person in New Zealand lottery history to achieve this amazing feat.
One of the strangest stories in the history of this lottery came in 2005, when a store owner was arrested for defrauding customers after he gave a winning ticket to the wrong customer. He claimed that the customer was in dire need of the money as they had a wife who was battling cancer, which is why he was dubbed “Robin Hood” by the media.