Pina Compagnone greets lottery winners when they come to collect. (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
While most people imagine what coming into serious money might mean for their lives, what are the logistics of collecting a million-dollar Lotto win?
In Western Australia it involves a visit to the dim, windowless winner’s room in Lotterywest’s non-descript building in Subiaco and a meeting with Pina Compagnone.
While Ms Compagnone sees a lot of tearful joy, she also sees confusion, uncontrollable giggling and occasionally extreme exhaustion.
“One man recently had won on a Saturday night and head office is closed on Sunday, so he was in very early on the Monday morning,” she told ABC Radio Perth Focus.
“He hadn’t had any sleep because he was full of excitement, but when I came in to interview him he was asleep on the couch because he was just so exhausted so I had to wake him up.
“He’d won $2 million.”
“Then we get people who giggle uncontrollably, they are so excited that they can’t get two words out.”
The plush, windowless room where winners come to claim, sleep and cry. (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
Secrecy paramount to instant millionaires
These days few people want to announce to the world that they’ve won Lotto, and before they come in they might not know exactly how much they will collect.
Newsagents who sell tickets are told not to tell the winner if they cannot deliver the news privately, and if someone checks their ticket on a machine it will simply tell them to contact the office and arrange a visit to the winners’ room, but not the exact amount.
Ms Compagnone recently met a man who’d thought he had won a few thousand dollars only to find it was several million.
Winners often take a big handful of chocolates and save them for later. (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
As well as chocolate and tissues and a glass of water, Ms Compagnone also gives people one of two advice booklets, depending on whether they have won more or less than $5 million.
The booklet gives advice on tax — the winnings are tax-free but the interest earned is not — and also thinking about what to do with the money and who winners want to tell.
“The majority of our winners do want to keep the news quite confidential and that is understandable and that is the right they have,” she said.
“The more people they tell, the more questions they have to answer.”
Strictly speaking, the ticket holder doesn’t even have to tell their partner, let alone their children or friends, but most people keep the news to close family or don’t reveal the amount they’ve won.
Don’t quit your job just yet
While winners get a novelty cheque during their visit, the real money is paid into their bank accounts two weeks after the draw, although some people can’t wait to quit their jobs.
“I have had the odd winner in here and all of a sudden they are on the phone to work, saying they won’t be in tomorrow — or ever again,” Ms Compagnone said.
But for most, the reality is that even winning the lottery doesn’t mean they can retire; they might be a new millionaire, but only just.
“The average division one prize is just over $1 million,” Ms Compagnone said.
“That’s often not enough for people to quit their jobs if they have children to support.
“It’s enough to be very comfortable but not enough to retire.”
She said paying off or buying a house, going on holiday, and helping close family members financially is what most people did with their winnings.
And contrary to news stories about newfound wealth causing rifts with children and friends, most people are content, she said.
“We give them a call down the track to see how they are going, and most of them have lived a very healthy and happy life.”