(Top photo: Maria Murray, who won £1 million on a scratch card in 2009. She is not featured in this article. Photo: Matthew Anderson, via)
Scratch cards do something to people: they convince them, for the 15 to 20 seconds between purchase and eventual scratching, that they are about to become obscenely, life-changingly wealthy. They temporarily make people just absolutely deluded, is what I'm saying, because the most the vast majority ever win on them is a tenner.
Mind you, with scratch card jackpots sometimes reaching £4 million it's hard not to agree with the National Lottery's social media executive that they can indeed be #LifeChanging.
I spoke to a few winners to find out just how their lives were changed.
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JOE HOLLICK (ESSEX, 2011)
Won £250,000 on a National Lottery Turquoise game at the age of 17.
When I saw I won I grabbed the card and jumped out of my car, screaming with joy. The first thought I had was that I could pay off the bills on our house so we didn't have to move [because Joe's mother was about to lose her home].
I'd already spent a few thousand pounds on scratch cards between the ages of 16 and 17. My friends had always told me I was wasting my money, but I maintained I'd win a jackpot one day – I just didn't think it would be so soon. After the win I travelled a lot, but one major thing that happened – that I still blame the money for sometimes – is I bought a bigger motorbike. Within a few months of owning it I had a nasty crash that left me with my left arm permanently paralysed.
It's a lazy person's dream to win a scratch card jackpot. But quitting my job wasn't a smart idea, and I spent one summer at the pub nearly every afternoon just to play [the fruit machine]. I wasted hundreds on that machine.
I was young and childish and wanted the picture of me and the big cheque. Camelot said if I did one or two radio interviews and a couple of newspapers they'd sort that for me and give me a three course dinner. But once I got there they didn't have a cheque, just a big version of my winning scratch card.
"I still occasionally buy them. Everyone takes the mick out of me, but I do believe it could happen again."
AUDREY WHITE (FELIXSTOWE, 2009)
Won £1 million on a Merry Millions Scratch Card at the age of 58.
I went to buy a £2 scratch card with a fiver I'd won earlier, but the shop worker accidentally ripped off a £5 one. She went to put it back but I said I'd have it anyway. Later in the evening I scratched it and it said "1 Mil", but I thought I'd made a mistake. I even put it under the light. Then I rang my son and he said, "If you think you've won a million dream on!"
In the end it got confirmed. By then it was late on Friday, so they said I had to keep it safe until Monday. I mean, where do you put a million pound scratch card? My other son thought it was one of those trick ones. He then said, "Should I keep it safe on my boat?" as he's a fisherman. I said, "Get lost – it might sink in the night!"
I think being given the wrong card was meant to be. But I'm not money-oriented; I don't drive, I hate the sun, hate the water – so I wasn't going to buy a flash car, a holiday or a cruise. I carried on working for another two years. It paid off my mortgage and gave me security, but it hasn't changed who I am. I still occasionally buy them. Everyone takes the mick out of me, but I do believe it could happen again. When it's happened again that they've pointed to the wrong one, I always say I'll take that anyway.
But money is not everything. I won in November, and then the son who had been with me died at the age of 37 in May from an aneurysm. I would have given it back to change everything. For a long time I've blamed the money – don't ask me why; it's stupid, I know.
Camelot asked me if I'd meet up with winners in London. They put you up in a five star hotel – I tell you what: I would have rather gone to a chippy. I've never had a more obscure dinner in my life. We had guinea fowl – which looked like a shrunken pigeon – with golf balls of cabbage! It was awful. I said to the waitress, "Is there a KFC around here?" I also asked why there was so many flipping knives and forks – she said just, "Start from the outside." I really showed myself up there.
One couple stood out for me. They were a mother and daughter, and the next day, before [a trip organised by Camelot], they got lost. They finally turned up in the craziest ballgowns, considering it was early morning. When Camelot asked where the hell they'd been, they said, "Well, how long do you think it takes for us to get ready?" I thought, 'You snide little and so and so's!' I cracked up – it shows how people changed.
Won £40,000 a year for the rest of their life on a Rich for Life scratch card.
I was at work and was struggling at the time, as four years before, a 13-year relationship had ended and I have health problems. I was in total shock when I won and called my mum with the news before calling Camelot. I stayed in my main job, paid off my debts and told my sons to write lists of what they would like, as they were amazing when we were struggling, selling their used toys and my belongings at car boot sales to survive. I bought into the business I was working at, managed to turn it around and am now a sole trader.
Camelot were fantastic at first. The payment goes through an insurance broker in London who initially visited me to sort it out, but apart from a letter I haven't heard from them. I've been managing it alone, which is hard as a single parent. They said going public shouldn't cause me a problem as it's not like I had won millions, just a "wage". But, although I've been able to help my family and charities since the win, it's caused me lots of problems. After my win my home was robbed by [men in] balaclavas and they threatened my eldest son with claw hammers. He has been in ill health all his life, and that affected him drastically.
Sometimes I think a large lump sum would've been better as I could have paid off my mortgage and moved area. I also didn't realise it is taxed annually, and as I'm self-employed, over £14,000 is added to earnings for tax too.