Weed to Wrestling: Five of the Most Unusual Splurges Made by Big Lottery Winners

  • Jonathan Vargas used his Powerball win to fund a TV show
  • UK’s Vivian Nicholson won a fortune in 1961 and spent it all
  • The Kuteys donated $200,000 for a Green Island water park
  • Bob Erb donated almost $1m towards marijuana legalization
  • Janite Lee used a chunk of $18m to fund Democratic candidates
Man holding Canadian_marijuana flag mashup
From water parks and lifelong shopping sprees to political social climbing, discover some of lottery winners’ most unusual spends. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

The Neptune Bay winner of the recent US history-making $1.58bn Mega Millions jackpot has suddenly found themselves with a life-changing sum, even if the lump sum cash out option is less than $500m after taxes. In this vein of lottery’s nouveau riche, VegasSlotsOnline News looks at some of the more unusual splurges made by lottery winners, from funding wrestling shows to supporting marijuana legislation.

Starring in a TV show

The Glamorous Ladies of Wresting (GLOW) television series is nothing like its unfortunate predecessor, Wrestlicious TakeDown, created after 19-year-old construction worker Jonathan Vargas won a $35.3m Powerball lottery in 2008. America’s youngest-ever Powerball lottery winner had some original ideas on how to spend his money after he opted for the lump sum of $17.3m, including, according to Wrestling Online, expressing a wish to be like Hugh Hefner. To achieve this, Vargas created Wrestlicious, a scantily clad women’s wrestling promotion television show that lasted one season.

I own the show, I got the ring, I got the bling, I got the dough.”

The ex-builder even gave himself a stage title and rapped on TV: “I’m JV Rich and I own the show, I got the ring, I got the bling, I got the dough. I have with the ladies that nobody disses, cause all my girls are Wrestlicious.”

While there’s been no sign of JV Rich or Vargas in the media spotlight since 2011, CBS News reported the Powerball winner was thinking of a reality TV show based on Wrestlicious.

Buying a few of her favorite things

When Vivian Nicholson won a fortune in the Littlewoods soccer pools in 1961 – £152,300 ($194,267), or the equivalent of £3m ($3.8m) today – she became an instant UK celebrity. Asked by a reporter what she was going to do with the money, the factory worker from West Yorkshire replied: “Spend, spend, spend.”

According to a New York Times obituary, after her win, Nicholson bought a house with her miner husband in an upscale community, along with furs, jewels, and designer clothes from Harrods. Also ringing the cash register was a gold watch, a pony, overseas travel, and boarding school educations for their children. Nicholson had a weakness for cars, and even though she hadn’t learned to drive, she was soon racing a “vast pink Cadillac” with the top down through the streets of her native mining town.

In the process of spending all her money before she died in 2015 aged 79, Nicholson would divorce two husbands, outlive three more, battle alcoholism, attempt suicide, and get deported from Malta after punching a policeman. In 1999, Nicholson reminisced to the Evening Standard of the time she and her husband were so poor, they had to share cigarettes, saying: “That was when I had everything.”

Gifting the community

Amid the heatwaves that have been hammering the US in 2023, residents of Green Island, New York would have no doubt been grateful for a local couple who cashed in their $319m Mega Millions jackpot for a share of $28.7m in 2011 and co-funded a state water park. John and Linda Kutey donated $200,000 of their huge win to fund the water pad in honor of their parents.

Supporting a higher cause

When the aptly named Bob Erb won the $25m Lotto Max draw in 2012 after buying a lottery ticket on the way to his father’s funeral in Calgary, the man from a lower-middle class farm in Weyburn southeastern Saskatchewan immediately thought of helping other people and supporting causes close to his heart.

donated about $825,000 to legalizing pot

As a medicinal user of marijuana, Erb has, according to The Terrace, donated about $825,000 to legalizing pot via 420 Day, an annual event supporting legalization.

Playing at politics

After winning $18m in the 1993 Illinois Lottery, a Missouri wigmaker from South Korea used a sizeable chunk of her winnings to support the Democratic Party and make other charitable donations. For the next eight years after winning the lottery, reports lottoanalyst.com, Janite Lee used her donations to access political VIP circles and would dine with politicians including former US President Bill Clinton. However, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, along with gambling and credit card debt, Lee’s generosity left her filing for bankruptcy in 2001.

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