The biggest jackpot ever won on a slot machine was worth $39.7 million. It was won by an anonymous software engineer who only spent $100 before hitting the Megabucks machine at the Excalibur Casino in Las Vegas.
It’s important to have a plan in place before winning a large jackpot. If you do, you’ll be better able to manage your money and avoid the many pitfalls that come with winning a lot of money.
1. Billy Bob Harrell Jr.
Winning a jackpot is often a dream come true, but for some people, the prize money can spell disaster. This was the case for Billie Bob Harrell Jr. who won a $31 million Texas lottery prize in 1997 and later branded the win as the worst thing that ever happened to him.
The former Home Depot shelf-stocker spent his entire winnings on things like a ranch, houses and cars for family members, 480 turkeys and sizeable donations to the church. He ultimately died penniless in hospice care in Kentucky.
2. Lisa Arcand
Winning the lottery often seems like a life-changing event. However, winning big can also bring more pain than you could imagine.
In 2004, Massachusetts single mom Lisa Arcand won a million dollars in the lottery. She bought a house and went on vacations. She even opened a restaurant to keep the cash flowing.
She was done in by sycophant hangers-on, crazy parties and legal entanglements. Her fortune was gone in less than four years. Mickey Carroll won a British jackpot at 19 and was branded “Lotto Lout” in the tabloids. By 2016 he was broke and working at a slaughterhouse.
3. Americo Lopes
Americo Lopes won a Mega Millions jackpot with a ticket bought in a lottery pool with five co-workers. But instead of telling them, he hid the news and quit his job. Then he lied, saying he needed to take time off for foot surgery.
A jury sided with the hard-hat workers and ordered Lopes to cough up the $20 million. Legal experts say this case illustrates the importance of dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s when it comes to lottery pools.
4. Ibi Roncaioli
In 1991, Ibi Roncaioli won a jackpot of $5 million in the Canadian lottery. She kept the winnings a secret from her husband, gynecologist Joseph Roncaioli, and spent the money on alcohol and gambling, according to a court trial.
She blew through her winnings and left Joseph with only $300,000, despite his hefty salary. That led to him poisoning her in 2003. He was convicted of the crime. His defense argued that he was merely trying to help her.
5. Luke Pittard
When Welsh man Luke Pittard won a huge jackpot, he wanted to change his life. Unfortunately, he ended up going back to flipping burgers at McDonald’s.
He bought a ranch, six homes, and a lot of new cars but he couldn’t say “no” when family and friends asked for handouts. Eventually, he blew through his winnings. He is now living on food stamps and a $450 monthly stipend. He did make one smart decision though – he chose to receive his prize in annual instalments.
6. Rhoda Toth
In 1990, married couple Alex and Rhoda Toth won $13 million in Florida’s Lotto jackpot. They opted to receive annual payments and immediately lived like celebrities. They stayed in Las Vegas hotels that cost a thousand dollars a night, dined out and saw expensive live shows.
But all that spending eventually caught up with them. Within 16 years, the couple had to move back to Florida and settle into a double-wide trailer on 10 acres. They also blew much of the money on gambling.
7. Pearlie Mae Smith
Pearlie Mae Smith, 76, credits divine intervention for helping her to pick the winning numbers in her Powerball lottery ticket. She and her family received a lump sum worth $284 million before taxes.
The Smiths set aside a portion of the prize to help others. One of her daughters, Katherine Nunnally, runs a community mentoring program for girls and will now be able to operate without having to seek out grants.
The Kuteys helped renovate a local park, replacing an old wading pool with a spray park that allows children to cool off for free.
8. Brian Parisi
They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but it did for this WWII veteran who won a $21.1 million jackpot on the same machine in Las Vegas 16 years after winning a $4.6 million prize. He would use a portion of the winnings to help his community.
A software engineer from California dropped a $100 wager on a Megabucks machine and came away with the biggest slot jackpot of all time at Excalibur Casino. The lucky gambler opted to remain anonymous.