Old Man Wins Lottery, May Possibly Live Happily Ever After

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Charles Maginnis.
Whether you think lotteries are a ruthless tax on the poor or merely a silly tax on the stupid, you must concede that sometimes, despite the absurd odds, someone wins.

Such was the fate of 82-year-old Charles Maginnis of Tacoma, who on Monday claimed the Washington Lottery's $2.8 million (pre-tax) Set for Life prize. In an early sign that Maginnis is seeking to avoid the wayward path trod by so many lucky winners before him, the octogenarian has thus far declined all media requests.

According to an egregiously exclamation-point-filled press release put out by a PR person named who said she didn't want us to use her name (and we're feeling generous today!), but who claims to play the lottery herself several times per week, the winning $20 scratch ticket was the first one Maginnis had ever purchased! Typically, he spends a dollar or two at a time on his lottery habit! Maginnis' wife didn't believe that he'd hit the jackpot until he turned in the ticket! And, yeah, let's just turn it over to the PR lady for a minute.

Over the weekend he hid the winning ticket throughout his house in various places to keep it safe! Charles and his wife, Shirley, have kept their win a secret from their whole family! They plan to have a family get together tonight where they will reveal their new millionaire status to their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren! Little do they know, they will receive most of the $2.8 million win as Charles plans to give a majority of the prize to them, pay off some debts, buy his wife a hearing aid, and enjoy a now sweeter retirement as a McChord Air Force retiree!

We won't bother you with more of the PR lady's Mark Trail-ian prose, but must note that after announcing a press conference, she sent out a further e-mail explaining that Maginnis has no interest in talking to anyone having to do with the media.

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Courtesy Washington State Lottery
Charles Maginnis evidently is not seeking fame.

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Michael Carroll.
This lowers the risk that his story will resemble that of the camera-unshy Michael Carroll, the trashy Brit who blew through his more than $15 million in winnings in under eight years, largely on drugs and prostitutes.

But it doesn't much change the odds on whether he'll wind up like Billie Bob Harrell Jr., the Texan who won $31 million in 1997, but who, after not being able to deal with all the people coming to him for money, killed himself less than two years later.

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Billie Bob Harrell, Jr.
There are lots of stories like Harrell's. If Maginnis wants to avoid becoming one of them, it's probably best that he make very clear who among his family is getting what and then stick to it. This isn't a recipe for nonstop pleasant interactions, and it does little to ensure that Maginnis won't be "set for life" in terms of stress and headaches from hangers-on. But hey, at least he's rich!

On to another pressing issue: If you are among those who play the lottery for reasons other than briefly entertaining a dream that you know, both in your heart and statistically speaking, will never come true, consider this: Since 1982, Washington's lottery has generated more than $2.5 billion. Which means, to state the obvious, that for every Charles Maginnis, there are thousands of people who would do just as well to put their money in a blender with some fruit and yogurt and make a delicious cash smoothie.

And lest there be any doubt about who foots the disproportionate share of that $2.5 billion bill, it is poor people.

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