A fundamental question faced by policymakers around the world is how best to help individuals who are in financial trouble. The ticket to Easy street? The financial consequences of winning the Lottery paper examines the consequences of the most basic approach: giving people large cash transfers. To determine whether this prevents or merely postpones bankruptcy, they exploit a unique dataset of Florida Lottery winners linked to bankruptcy records. Results show that although recipients of $50,000 to $150,000 are 50 percent less likely to file for bankruptcy in
two years after winning relative to small winners, they are equally more likely to file three to five years afterward. Furthermore, bankruptcy records indicate that even though the median winner of a large cash prize could have paid off all of his unsecured debt or increased equity in new or existing assets, he chose not to do either. Consequently, although we cannot be sure other recipients of financial assistance would react in the same way lottery players did, our results do suggest that some skepticism regarding the long-term effect of cash transfers may be warranted.
South Africa's first mega-jackpot lottery winner, who pocketed nearly R14-million a decade ago, has run up a string of debts.
Batsirayi Mupfawi worked for 15 years as a chauffeur for golfer Ernie Els's manager, Nick Frangos. Then he spent R5 on a lottery ticket that bagged him a fortune on April 8 2000 - just four days after his 38th birthday.
Mupfawi, who was born in Zimbabwe, bought himself a R1.6-million home close to where he once lived with Frangos's family in Sandton, and treated his family to a holiday in Disneyland.
Today, he is his own boss, running a cross-border trucking firm in Johannesburg.
But, in the last year, he has accumulated a string debts and had to auction off one of his flats in Johannesburg by court order. He almost lost a second flat in the same building and has had his telephone and home security service suspended owing to payment difficulties.
But Mupfawi insisted to the Sunday Times that he was better off than other celebrity jackpot winners . "I have read so many stories about Lotto winners who died early. I'm fortunate that nothing happened to me and I'm still living well," he said this week.
Lottery winners famous for their misfortune include:
- Jason Canterbury, from the Cape Flats in the Western Cape, South Africa, who won R6.7-million in the lottery in 2003 at the age of 18. Three years ago, he was sentenced to 28 years in jail for murder after turning to drugs and crime to support his lifestyle after his winnings evaporated;
- William Post, who won more than R780-million in a US draw in 1998, only to end up living on a social grant after relatives siphoned away his windfall, hired a hit man to kill him and then sued him; and
- Jeffrey Dampier, who died after his 1986 US win of R134- million. His sister-in-law, who had hoped to inherit his windfall, was sentenced to life in prison for his murder.
Mupfawi chose to reveal his identity to the nation shortly after his big win. Six weeks later, he bought his home.
He told the Sunday Times in an interview after his win that his real dream was to finish matric. That dream was never realised. Instead, he enrolled in a computer literacy course and a course to learn about "a bit of business".
He started his trucking business in 2003.
He said the business was experiencing "ups and downs, like any other business".
Banks have, since 2009, approached the courts to have some of his properties auctioned off owing to debts.
Mupfawi lost his two-bedroom flat in Ferndale, Randburg, in November last year when the High Court in Johannesburg granted an order for the property to be auctioned.
He said he was forced to "let go of it" because he "could not afford to continue paying for it when he had no tenants".
Frangos - who, after the win, offered to help Mupfawi invest his cash - said recently that they had parted company years ago.
"If he has fallen on hard times, I'm really sorry to hear that. He was a fantastic guy with a really nice family," he said.
National lottery operating company Gidani's Thembi Tulwana said counselling was offered to those who won over R50000.
Mupfawi declined financial counselling by former lottery operator Uthingo after his win.