What Happens When You Win the Lottery?


When someone wins the lottery, there are a lot of things they have to figure out. A good first step is putting together a team that includes an attorney who has experience working with people in their situation, as well as experts such as financial planners and investment advisers. This team will help them figure out how to collect and manage the winnings—whether they choose to accept it as a lump sum or as an annuity paid over decades; whether to set up trusts or other legal entities that can receive the prize money; and what tax implications may come with the prize.

The most difficult task, though, is the emotional one. Winners are usually shattered, and in some cases are worse off than they were before their win. “The big thing is keeping your feet on the ground and not falling into a depression,” said a lawyer who has worked with lottery winners. “If you do that, you can make a good transition.”

The article explores the history of lottery, which originated in the Roman Empire as a party game—tickets were distributed to guests at Saturnalia dinners and prizes ranged from fancy tableware to slaves. In America, it grew from a private pastime into a state-supported enterprise when, in the nineteen sixties, soaring population growth and the cost of the Vietnam War threatened to strain state budgets. Advocates argued that gambling was a natural part of life and that states could profit from it without raising taxes or cutting services.