The Weirdest And Wildest Ways Lottery Winners Have Spent Their Windfalls

Matt Bell

money fanned out

When it comes to instant millionaires, you expect the usual spending sprees on mansions, supercars, and exotic travel. But some big-time jackpot victors have their own peculiar flair.

Lottery winners with money to burn can burn it in ways that run the gamut: wacky business ventures; surreal pie-in-the-sky dreams; head-scratching splurges.

Some of these bizarre gambles have paid off, but many crashed and burned in a heartbroken haze of eccentric smoke. Here’s a look at some expenditures that have stood out.

A Strange Stroke of Lotto Luck

When 67-year-old retired law enforcement officer David Lawrence won £1 million in the U.K.’s National Lottery in 2023, he did something predictable with the money — bought a house — but put his own twist on it.

Lawrence bought a modest house with a backyard big enough to build a 3-hole golf course, which Lawrence says he intends to open to the public. The course will specifically be for kids and teens experiencing mental health issues, a cause Lawrence has been supporting throughout his life.

The most astonishing part of Lawrence’s lotto story: He won by using the same numbers he played when he won a £12,000 jackpot in 2020. 

Gotta Bounce

On a Friday the 13th in 2014, Nigel Willetts purchased a EuroMillions lottery ticket to get change for a £20, and instead of the bad luck usually associated with the date, ended up winning £1 million.

Inspired by his business partner’s love of American trampoline parks, Nigel bounced into action. He invested £75,000 of his windfall into a bold and unexpected family business: Go Air trampoline parks.

Despite initial success with a 4.4 rating on Google, the company faced challenges. Today, Go Air is closed permanently for reasons that remain unclear.

Funding His Mother-In-Law’s Pet Project

Matthew Topham, a 23-year-old decorator, was living a middle-class life with his wife in 2012 when he won £45 million in the EuroMillions jackpot.

He put £600,000 of his winnings into his wife’s mother’s dream: a petting zoo, replete with llamas, pygmy goats, horses, pigs, ducks, and even a falconry center, so big they opened to the public. Rushmoor Country Farm Park did quite well, reaching an average 4.5 rating on Tripadvisor.

After only a few seasons, though, it announced through a social media post that it was closing and to await announcements. It remains shuttered today.

Some of Topham’s other pursuits included becoming a helicopter pilot and race car driver. He even cruised to victory at the Donington GT Cup Championship in his £240,000 Aston Martin Vantage GT4.

But this one doesn’t have a happy ending. His steering away from the racecourse cost him and others dearly — in 2019, he was found guilty of careless driving after an accident that killed a woman in another car, leading to 16 months in prison for Topham.

a Checkered Future

In 2009, construction worker and NASCAR superfan Joe Denette saw his world transformed overnight. Inspired by his favorite NASCAR legends, Denette took a chance on a Mega Millions lottery ticket worth $75.6 million. He selected numbers that represented racing icons like Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt.

The gamble paid off spectacularly. Denette won, opting for the $31 million lump sum to pursue his childhood dream: to own a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team.

He began Joe Denette Motorsports in partnership with former Nationwide Series regular Hermie Sadler. Denette’s team includes noted drivers Jason White and Elliott Sadler. They are still chasing the checkered flag today.

Ropes and Reality

In 2008, when he was just 19, Jonathan Vargas won a massive $35 million in the Powerball lottery, and upped the ante for what weird stuff lottery winners could spend their jackpot on.

Opting for the $17.3 million lump sum, he invested in his own reality TV show called Wrestlicious Takedown, where 20 women competed in wrestling and tried to win his favor.

Despite teaming up with seasoned wrestling and TV producer Johnny Cafarella, the show ended after only one season.

The Album No One Asked For 

Roger Griffiths‘ journey after winning the lottery sounds like a classic rock ballad with a bittersweet refrain.

In 2005, after winning a cool £1.8 million, this former IT manager indulged in the ultimate fantasy. He produced and released his own rock album. Armed with £4,000 in new guitars and a £25,000 budget, he got his old university band, FMB, back together. They recorded a full-length album to feature their vaguely successful 1992 single.

How many copies did they sell? A mere 600. Not quite enough to earn platinum status.

The album wasn’t an overly expensive investment, but Griffiths also bankrolled a rock star lifestyle. He got a mansion in Wetherby, a Porsche in the driveway, sun-soaked holidays from Monaco to Dubai, private school for his kids, and designer clothing for his wife. His £200,000 investment in a failed beauty salon wasn’t the best venture for a steady income, and he was left with £7.

But that hasn’t stopped Griffiths from feeding his fans. He and his band released a 15-track “greatest hits album” in 2020.

Victory was in the cards

Bookkeeper and tarot card reader Debbie Mather from Derbyshire, England, won a £5.1 million jackpot on — believe it or not — Friday, May 13, 2005. She says she had a hunch about winning when she drew the Wheel of Fortune card during a tarot reading earlier that day.

After it actually happened, Mather invested in two businesses: £500,000 in a fireworks company and £500,000 in a fancy dress shop. 

According to social media, her businesses have avoided bad luck and are still open. Want one more unique investments? She helped her son buy his own skydiving practice.