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Mo Money, Mo Problems …

Mo Money, Mo Problems …

woman winning ticket

Marcia Adams’ winning ticket was a Quick Pick. She bought it from a food mart in Atlanta earlier this year and won $72 million. Many delighted in her good fortune but were dumbfounded when Adams, 33, said she was keeping her job. Her reason? “I love what I do.” Her decision might sound like an anomaly, but playing the lottery certainly isn’t.

For many, the journey to the corner store for a lottery ticket is a weekly ritual. Shelling out a few bucks for the chance of a big payback seems worth the gamble. In fact, a study recently showed that 21 percent of those surveyed thought that the lottery was the most practical path to wealth, while another report found that households with annual incomes under $13,000 spend 9 percent of their cash searching for their proverbial golden ticket.

That’s not always a good look for those who gamble recreationally, says Renee Cunningham-Williams, Ph.D., associate professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis.
“[Some] 2 percent [of gamblers]  experience significant problems because it’s not about winning the money,” she says. “It’s about being in action or either gambling to feel better. It’s a way to almost self-medicate or to cope with life’s circumstances. Gambling with $100 may be significant if that money is being taken from daily living expenses [such as the] mortgage or food.”

Perhaps Notorious B.I.G. said it best: “Mo money mo problems.” Take Jeffrey Dampier for instance. He was destined for the good life—or so he thought—after winning $20 million in 1996 in the Illinois Lottery. After showering his family with lavish gifts, his sister-in-law and her boyfriend kidnapped and murdered the millionaire in 2005. And Curtis Sharp Jr. became an overnight sensation after taking home $5 million in a 1982 New Jersey lottery. The former maintenance man, known for his dapper dress, even landed on the cover of JET magazine. A few years later, he was $200,000 in debt.
“Research has shown that individuals who go from rags to riches almost instantly experience some problems,” explains Cunningham-Williams. “You hear these stories of people [whose dreams came true]. They bought the ticket and won; yet they are experiencing a ripple effect of losing friends and needing to change overnight. If you were to wager [on your future], your [best] bet would be to stay in school, stay employed and save your money.”

See Also

For more information about gambling addiction and treatment, contact the National Council on Problem Gambling’s 24-hour confidential helpline at 1-800-522-4700, or visit—MAC

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