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Most lottery winners crave privacy

May 15, 2006, 6:45 am

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After the Big Win

Whatever other effects winning the lottery might have on Mainers, in the long term it certainly turns them into a reclusive lot.

If they hadn't moved out of state or changed their phone to an unlisted number, they either refused to answer their phone or return calls. Most of those who did talk quickly stopped for fear that additional publicity would invite a wave of long-lost relatives asking for handouts.

The most recent Megabucks winners, Edward Cardali Jr. and Regan Cardali of Oakland, changed their phone number and made themselves scarce after being awarded $8.45 million on Friday.

Only two of the 52 Maine residents who won the Megabucks jackpot between the years of 1993 and 1998 were available and willing to talk.

Margaret and Elmer Randall of Cherryfield won nearly $2.6 million in October of 1994. Upon winning, they did not take any exotic trips or make any extravagant purchases, Margaret Randall said.

"No, I'm too old," she said. "I'm 88 years old, and my health isn't too good."

Margaret Randall said that she gives about two-thirds of the money to her children and grandchildren. She still buys an occasional lottery ticket "when it gets up there," but has not since won any substantial prizes. As for the question of whether winning the jackpot had a positive effect on her life, Margaret Randall is noncommittal.

"I suppose," she said.

The Randalls' generosity to their relatives is fairly typical of lottery winners, according to a 1987 scholarly article published by the Journal of Gambling Studies.

"Contrary to popular beliefs, winners did not engage in lavish spending sprees and instead gave large amounts of their winnings to their children and their churches," the article reported. "The most common expenditures were for houses, automobiles and trips."

According to the journal, winners were found to be "well-adjusted, secure and generally happy from the experience."

However, another article from the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice in 2002 followed the cases of two women who had won the lottery. The article, titled "Winning the Jackpot and Depression: Money Cannot Buy Happiness," reported that the two women were hospitalized for depression shortly after collecting their winnings. Both women recovered from the episode within four years, according to the article.

Johanna Colson, a retired woman who lives in Dover-Foxcroft, won $280,000 in a Megabucks jackpot in 1994. She said she uses her winnings, which are being issued to her over a 25-year period, largely to pay for prescription medications.

"We done some repair on the house, and I'm on a lot of medication, so it helps out a little," she said.

Colson said she still plays the lottery once a week, and sometimes twice, depending on how often she gets out of the house. She won an additional $1,000 in 1996.

A third lottery winner, Janet DeCosta of Weeks Mills, said she is enjoying the nearly $1.3 million she won a few months ago.

"You still don't believe it really happened," she said. "It's changed my life -- I don't have any money worries. We just went on a cruise; I've never done that before."

DeCosta said the first thought of her husband, Ernest DeCosta, was to buy a swingset for their grandchildren.

Her first thought was to pay off their house. On the whole, winning the lottery was good, DeCosta said.

"My husband retired. I was out of work anyways," she said. "I don't think anything else really has changed. I think we are the same people. It's died down, and life is back to normal."

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