|Posted: December 3, 2005, 5:05 am - IP Logged|
While some winners stay mum, others share their pot luck
It doesn't matter whether you're a man or woman, but it helps to live in Moree and to pick 25 or 39 (but not 7 or 12). It also helps if your name is Bob. But little else is known about one of Australia's luckiest and most secretive groups: the lottery millionaires. There are now about three instant millionaires made each week - but it is not known if their richness brings happiness, charity or the reappearance of long-lost friends. There have been no studies done of the group and most prefer to remain anonymous. Some winners do not want their lives to change and do not even tell their family they have won.
Other, usually older winners, fear the fate of eight-year-old Graeme Thorne, who was kidnapped for a ransom and then murdered after his family won £100,000 in a lottery in 1960. For the 25th anniversary of Lotto this year, NSW Lotteries has been scanning the archives to recount its history and retrieve details of its 646 millionaires. Among the prize's best-loved winners - and belonging to the few to relinquish their anonymity - are the Haberfield hairdressing siblings George and Nola Mezher, who used their $429,000 to feed the homeless.
In their salon they would speak to customers of plans to buy a Rolls-Royce and Bentley if they ever won. But when their numbers - based on saints birthdays - fell in 1982, they decided to instead set up the Our Lady of the Snows soup kitchen near Central Station. "Other winners go on trips and buys shares," said Mr Mezher. "But it's better to get out and do something good with your money because you can't take it with you."
Gamblers have spent more than $9 billion on Lotto since 1979. About 60 per cent has been distributed in prizes, and the remainder given to the NSW Government. More than $1 billion is spent each year, and a million people buy tickets each week. Before announcing the news to winners, NSW Lotteries conducts age and health checks to ensure the surprise will be bearable. Winners are asked to sit down before they are told the news. Two weeks later they receive their money.
The communications manager for NSW Lotteries, John Vineberg, said most winners had plans to buy a house, a better car and donate money to charity. NSW Lotteries did not give financial advice but winners could request a brochure about financial advice titled "Don't Kiss Your Money Goodbye". Only one winner is known to have won the top prize twice: Bob, from Culburra on the South Coast, won on June 21, 2000, and on August 13, 2001.