Lottery News Stories As They Appeared ...
Originally Posted: Oct 19, 2004
Revised: Feb 27, 2005 (Links added)
Scroll down to read the following stories ...
Columbus Telegram - One Winner - One Loser
MN - Holmen Courier - Couples new address - Easy Street
Austin News 8 - Oct 13 Lotto Texas Drawing - Machine problems delays drawing
NY Post - New York in state Lotto sales WAY down since joining Mega Millions
Gambling has different faces for 2 women
By COLLEEN KENNEY
The night shift is buzzing at the ADM corn processing plant in Columbus.
Someone won big in the Nebraska Lottery at Cuzzin's Corner convenience store. Some girl.
The payout: $222,000.
"It's me," jokes truck loader Cheri Shriner. People in the break room laugh.
But she did buy two Quick Pick tickets at Cuzzin's that day. And her lucky number is 2.
A co-worker calls the lottery hot line and reads off the five numbers. There's a 27. Cheri has a 27. She can't remember the rest. She takes note of the other four.
"Better check your numbers, Cheri."
Feeling silly, she runs through the pouring rain to the parking lot. A few minutes later, she starts back. She stops, returns to her car. This time she locks it.
People in the break room are staring.
"Why are you crying?"
"It's me! It's me!"
Joni Brown grows up in a loving Lutheran family. She graduates from Lincoln Southeast High School. She marries a good man.
They open a glass company, buy a Cape Cod-style house in south Lincoln and adopt a son in 1983. Business is good. She handles the finances. They travel in a large RV, her husband's pride and joy.
When they go to the races, it seems her dogs always win. She starts playing the lottery - $200 a month -because she can afford it. And it's fun.
She's a lucky person, people tell her.
But over the years, the glass market in Lincoln grows more competitive.
Their income goes down. Her gambling expenses don't.
After taking out a second mortgage, they sell their home and move themselves and the company to Pawnee City, her husband's hometown.
She starts working in Kansas.
In 1996, she and a sister go to Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs. Joni takes $60.
In 10 minutes at the slots, she makes $1,600.
"This machine is going to solve everything," she tells herself.
The next two years, it seems her machines always hit $1,000 jackpots. Her reputation as a lucky person grows. She feels safe at the casinos. People know her name, make her feel like a celebrity.
The noise of the machines is soothing.
For her birthday, friends at work get her a T-shirt:
Queen of the Slots.
The odds of winning the Nebraska Pick 5 jackpot are about 500,000 to one.
Cheri Shriner is that one.
A few days after picking up her check at the Lincoln office of the Nebraska lottery, she pays off every credit card, closes every account but one.
After taxes, she gets to keep about $155,000 of the $222,000.
She starts a college fund for her three kids. She and her husband, Antonio Ramirez, who got married in Mexico, decide to have a more elaborate second wedding at the county courthouse than they had planned.
Cheri rents tuxes for Antonio and her two boys. She buys a new dress for her teenage daughter, a nice wedding dress for herself.
"You look too good to be getting married in a courthouse," people tell her.
The Queen of the Slots maxes all four credit cards.
She spends her son's college fund. She is gambling all night many nights, usually at the Sac and Fox casino across the Kansas border on the tribe's reservation.
She asks her dad for money but can't pay it back. She asks again.
One night at the casino, she writes a check for $5,000 even though she knows her account doesn't have the money. She has 10 days to raise the cash.
She finds her husband near the RV.
"We've got a lot of debts," she tells him. "Financially, we need to sell this."
By this time, he suspects she has a problem. But she has hidden it well because she handled the finances.
He doesn't say a thing. Just walks into the garage and cries.
Cheri is the one in charge of finances, too.
She'd never been behind paying bills, but had been at the point where credit card debt was starting to overwhelm her.
"Then I won, and, oh, man it was a dream come true."
Life hasn't changed much. She still works full time at ADM. She loves her job and her co-workers. She probably wouldn't quit even if she won millions.
But winning the Nebraska Lottery makes her see people in ways she didn't expect.
People ask to borrow money. It's hard telling them no, especially when they're relatives. One brother hasn't spoken to her since she turned him down. And he didn't attend her wedding reception.
"I would love to help them out. I feel winning has created some friction. If I help one out, I have to help them all.
"If it was millions there would be no questions, I'd share with my family. But I'm 36 years old, and this is not going to last a lifetime."
She's driving home on the highway. It's almost morning. She's exhausted.
She's just lost another $1,600 at the casino.
"If I just close my eyes," Joni tells herself, "it'll be all over."
She thinks of her son. She thinks of what a sister told her once, that God is there for her. She pulls to the side of the road and calls her sister, admits she can't stop gambling.
Then she calls out to God.
Her son meets her at the door.
"Mom, how much did you lose this time?"
The next day she enrolls in a program for addicted gamblers.
Almost two months after winning, Cheri still has a lot of the money left. She's reading books on investing.
She still enters Powerball lottery pools with her ADM co-workers. She still buys two lottery tickets each week at Cuzzin's Corner.
She still feels lucky - but then, she felt lucky before hitting the jackpot.
"I've had people come up to me and say, 'Oh, you're lucky, rub shoulders with me. It's nice to know somebody that's rich.'
"I don't consider myself rich. I'm just happy. I still got my husband and my kids."
And if they can afford it, she says, they're taking an Alaskan cruise.
Joni goes back to the casinos.
But this time she goes with a counselor to sign papers banning her for life.
"Someone is at my machine," she says as they're leaving.
She no longer gambles. But she still feels guilt. After 32 years of marriage, she and her husband divorce. He dies not long after that, of a heart attack at age 59.
She's 55 now, living with their son in the College View area of Lincoln in a small, comfortable apartment with a lattice porch.
She's studying to become a certified counselor for gambling addicts. She's an intern with Choices, a program for addicted gamblers at Ninth and Charleston streets.
She avoids TV and radio because so many shows mention gambling.
She's afraid of the soothing sounds of the slot machines.
Machine problems slowed
10/14/2004 6:54 PM
Lotto fanatics were disappointed Wednesday night (10/13/04) when machine problems stopped the broadcast of the jackpot drawing at 10:12 p.m.
The numbered balls would not go through the tube.
The drawing was done later, videotaped and certified by an independent auditor.
The lottery's executive director said it's the first time in nearly 12 years of Lotto Texas drawings that officials have had this sort of incident.
Everybody should watch this newscast showing the drawing ...
The TLC has refused to provide any kind of verbal information about the drawing incident so I've requested to receive the film/video taken in the studio for that night. From the time the staff arrives til the time they leave the drawing studio - well - everything is suppose to be on film. I guess we're going to find out if they do, in fact, have everything on film. When I get the tape, I'll let you know what I see. OK?
Canada Has A Gambling Problem. And so will Texas.
About that 2005 Texas Lottery Demographics Study.
Thank You Dallas Morning News ... Their study of lottery sales
Texas Lottery Denies Cheating Lotto Texas Winners
Read story about a Texas $31 million winner
More Sad but True Winners Stories. MM 149M
Sad but True Winners Stories. Click here.
Sad but True Winners Stories and
Store Owners and Employees Admit Stealing
Couple's new address: Easy Street
Holmen Courier (MN)
Three weeks after Bob and Mary Mikkelson won the $10.8 million Hot Lotto jackpot, their life has a new theme song: "Don't Worry, Be Happy."
That's fine with the Mikkelsons. Although they reaped almost $4.4 million after taxes from their lottery win, they don't plan to live like millionaires.
Thirty years ago, Bob said, it might have been a different story. He might have gone out on a wild spending spree way back when, he said. "I could never have handled that much money."
But as a 61-year-old retiree he's making a plan and taking it slowly. In fact, he said, they hadn't really spent any of it three weeks after the Sept. 15 drawing. Then again, it took them a while longer than the usual winner to claim their jackpot.
Bob had been buying lottery tickets, usually about $5 a week, for the past 15 years. "I always thought there was a chance (of winning big) but very minute," Bob said. "I was always hoping I could win a little bit more than my $5 investment."
Mary and Bob Mikkelson took the lump sum payout of almost $6.5 million, which worked out to almost $4.4 million after taxes.
She has had some lucky bingo nights, once winning $1,000, and when she decided to make one of her rare forays into the lottery, it was one of her tickets that matched the Hot Lotto numbers - 2-3-15-26-36 and a Hot Ball of 18.
When they read the numbers in the newspaper the day after the Hot Lotto drawing, they could hardly believe they had won. A check of the Minnesota State Lottery Web site confirmed what they scarcely dared believe.
Still, the Mikkelsons waited until the next day, Friday, to call the lottery office, more to find out what to do next than anything. They're advice included changing their phone number, making sure to sign the winning ticket so nobody else could claim it and consulting a financial planner.
As luck would have it, the Mikkelsons already had a financial planner they trusted: Ben Lachecki of U.S. Bancorp Investments. "He was doing good with the little money I had," Bob said.
But when the Mikkelsons called him Friday, they discovered he wouldn't be back in the office until Tuesday.
The delay didn't bother them much, though. They had already decided they were going to take everything nice and easy.
Both Bob and Mary grew up on the South Side of La Crosse, and graduated from Central High School in 1961. They didn't date in high school, though.
Bob had already served four years in the U.S. Navy and was on leave when he and Mary finally made a connection at the 1965 Oktoberfest. They married the next year.
A lot of lottery jackpot winners finance world tours with their windfall, but that's not high on the list for the Mikkelsons. In his 23 years serving in the Navy, Bob's duty stations included San Diego, Hawaii, Panama, Japan and Texas, so they've seen a lot of the world already.
After Bob retired from the Navy as master chief, he worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 12 years in San Antonio, Texas, where his daughter and son, Dawn and Scott, live now.
In 1998, Bob retired from the postal service and moved back to the La Crosse area. He was the only one of the five siblings in his family in a position to help care for his mother, Lil.
They made the decision to move here in a hurry, and didn't have much time to choose a place to live. They settled on a mobile home with a garage in a newer development on the far south side of Holmen, cramming the contents of their two-story house in Texas into the mobile home.
They only planned to stay in the mobile home for a couple years, but they never got around to finding a more permanent home.
In recent months, Bob's 85-year-old mother had had a few falls and her health was deteriorating, so it was decided she would have to spend some time at Hillview Nursing Home. Bob and Mary had just moved her into Hillview before they headed over to the Saver Stop gas station in La Crescent to buy Powerball and Hot Lotto tickets.
Mary usually didn't go with to buy lottery tickets, but on this day, she handed Bob $4 and told him to just get her whatever he was getting.
During Bob's days in the Navy, the couple had to live frugally, from payday to payday, even with Mary's additional income from the retail sales jobs she would work.
Besides lack of money, lack of time also was a big influence on their living conditions. When Bob was transferred in the Navy, he usually didn't get much time to go house hunting, so they always had to settle for what they could get.
One of the best things about winning the lottery, Bob and Mary said, is they can finally get their "dream home."
And when they say dream home, they're not dreaming of some kind of luxury palace. Just a nice roomy place without much upkeep - think condo - with someplace to put Bob's fishing boat and a room where Mary can work on her craft projects. She calls it her "gonna do room."
They definitely don't want to build a home. Too many headaches, they said, and one thing they're enjoying about winning the lottery is the lack of headaches. Suddenly, bills aren't a big problem.
The Mikkelsons also plan to buy a car, a new set of golf clubs and maybe a new fishing boat for Bob. They'll probably take some trips, too - Mary would like to take a steamboat trip up the Mississippi River and follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark.
And, Mary added with a laugh, "I can order more Girl Scout cookies now."
But the Mikkelsons don't plan any huge lifestyle changes.
"I'll still go to the dollar store and Wal-Mart and use coupons," Mary said.
One of the best things about winning the lottery, the Mikkelsons said, is the ability to help their loved ones and good causes. "There's going to be donations," Bob said. "I just don't know where yet."
Life after winning the lottery hasn't been as crazy as the Mikkelsons thought it might be. They haven't been deluged with shady get-richer-quick schemes or sob stories.
Sure, they had to give their first press conference, but the lottery office people were very helpful and organized, so it wasn't that hard, they said.
At first, taking the lump sum payment instead of spreading out the prize over 20 years might have made the jackpot seem relatively small. But, if anything, the windfall seems bigger now that he's had time to work with his financial planner to see what it can do, Bob said.
"Ben does a real good job for us," Bob said. "He's telling me I don't have a thing to worry about."
Lachecki, who also lives in Holmen, said he was out of town when the Mikkelsons won the jackpot, but got a phone message when he got back from Bob, saying that he had come into a "considerable sum of money."
Bob used to tell Lachecki all the time that if he won the lottery, Lachecki would be the first one he'd call, but Lachecki didn't think that was it. "I figured something a little more realistic, like an inheritance," he said.
The Mikkelsons came down to his office, and he asked them, joking, if they had won the lottery. "It was a jaw dropper," he said. "That's the closest I'll ever get to winning the lottery, and it happened to two great people."
As funny as it sounds, the Mikkelsons both say they're glad they didn't win a mega-jackpot. Their payday of $4 million feels comfortable.
Although the Mikkelsons have struck it relatively rich, Bob said he plans to keep buying a few lottery tickets every week. It's mainly for entertainment, just like it always was, he said.
It's essential that people realize that playing the lottery should be about fun, not about expecting a big pay day, Bob said. After all, the odds of winning the Hot Lotto jackpot the Mikkelsons won was about 11 million to 1.
"You can save a lot of money by not buying tickets," Bob said. "I wouldn't recommend it for a lot of people."
- New York Post -
Sun Oct 17, 3:59 AM ET Local - New York Post
ALBANY - The Mega Millions lottery game and its promise of mega-jackpots has left the more established Lotto in the dust, new statistics obtained by The Post show.
New York state sales so far this year for the multi-state Mega Millions game - which offers minimum jackpots of $10 million that have sometimes gone into the nine-digit range - are at $411 million, a 20 percent increase over the same period last year, according to state Lottery statistics.
At the same time, Lotto with its $3 million minimum jackpot has generated just $260 million in sales so far this year - a 14 percent drop from the same period last year and a 31 percent decline since 2001, the year before Mega Millions came to New York.
"Players play more when there are higher jackpots," said state Lottery spokeswoman Jennifer Mauer.
FYI - Since New York joined Mega Millions in May 2002, they have sold 1,109,191,108 Mega Millions tickets through 10/16/04. Out of all those tickets sold, only 8 were jackpot winning tickets.
Meanwhile, the statewide smoking ban may have begun taking a toll on Quick Draw, the electronic keno-like game offered at bars, restaurants and bowling alleys.
Quick Draw sales dropped 4 percent this year, the first full year of the smoking ban.
Bar owners predicted a drop in customers when the smoking ban went into effect that it would result in lower Quick Draw sales. Sales for the game are down $14 million this year.
"They said the smoking ban wouldn't hurt anyone, well apparently it's hurting the New York state treasury, and it's going to be made up on the backs of the already overtaxed taxpayers of New York state," said Scott Wexler, executive director of the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association.
Wexler said he expects that the Quick Draw losses are even more substantial at bars, taverns and bowling alleys, which he argues are suffering more than restaurants from the smoking ban.
The lottery cash cow continues to be the instant scratch-off games, which combined have generated $2.26 billion in sales so far this year - an 11 percent increase over last year.
All told, total lottery sales through Oct. 6 of this year have totaled $4.71 billion - a 6 percent increase over last year.