A day in the life of a Lottery winner

Next week the National Lottery will create 100 new millionaires – but what is the experience actually like? MARK ANDREWS finds out.

It could happen to you – Mark Andrews with his “cheque” for £1million at Weston Park
It could happen to you – Mark Andrews with his “cheque” for £1million at Weston Park

Next week the National Lottery will create 100 new millionaires – but what is the experience actually like? MARK ANDREWS finds out.

THE champagne is flowing, the butler is on standby and I’ve finally got my hands on the big cheque.

So what does it feel like to be a millionaire?

Embarrassing is probably the first word that springs to mind. Passers-by gather, trying to see what all the fuss is about as cameras click and I pose with a cheque for £1 million.

Except I haven’t really won the lottery. And the cheque is a dummy made payable to “Lucky Me”.

“We can’t put your name on the cheque for legal reasons,” the PR man tells me.

“What if I change my name by deed poll?,” is my reply.

Andy Carter is a senior winners’ adviser with lottery operator Camelot, one of the so-called “spooks” who discretely sit at the side of every winner.

A jovial man, the 39-year-old’s role is like a cross between James Bond and Father Christmas. His suitcase is always packed, ready for his next assignment. When he telephones winners, he uses a codename. And while he is happy to be photographed, most of his fellow “spooks” live in a world of shadowy anonymity.

It looks like Andy will be a busy man next week as the Euromillions lottery celebrates the start of the London Olympics by creating a guaranteed 100 new millionaires in the UK. The law of averages suggests at least one of the winners will be from the West Midlands.

Most people will at some time have imagined winning the lottery, but what is the experience actually like?

We’re at Weston Park so Andy can give me the full experience – minus the money. The Earl of Bradford’s ancestral home, just outside Wolverhampton, is one of the venues where the biggest winners in the Midlands are presented with their prizes.

“We’ve had winners who can’t talk, and then you have people who literally jump up and down,” says Andy.

When winners call the prize line number on the ticket, a handler takes their details and provides a codename for their dedicated “spook”.

“We guarantee to call back within 24 hours, although it is usually within a couple of hours,” says Andy.

A face-to-face meeting will be set up, and the ticket will be photographed by a hand-held scanner and transmitted to Camelot’s head office in Watford.

After that, a representative from the winner’s chosen bank will be invited to join the meeting. To avoid being pestered by financial services salesmen, winners are normally advised to set up a “private account”, where even staff at their won branch won’t know about the money. A list of accredited financial advisers and lawyers is made available.

They also have to decide whether to go for publicity. “Most people, if asked beforehand, say they wouldn’t go for publicity, but they change their mind when they actually win,” says Andy. “Some who take the publicity think ‘let’s get it over with’, and then disappear into the sunset, but others use their fame to promote a charity.”

And it can sometimes be a sobering experience.

“Many of them suddenly think ‘this is serious, this isn’t just me discussing it with my mates down the pub any more,” says Andy.

While there will always be those who adopt the philosophy of pools winner Viv Nicholson – who famously declared she was going to “spend, spend, spend” – Andy says most give careful consideration to how they will adapt to their new lifestyle.

“The way some people react is truly humbling. There was one lady who worked in an old people’s home, and while she cut down her hours, she continued working, only she doesn’t draw a wage, instead the money goes into a pot for the residents.”

Another winner, Brenda Perch from Kingswinford, provided a dream Christmas for a family that was going through hard times.

And there are plenty of people who have come up with unusual ways to spend their newly-acquired wealth.

There was one winner whose first priority was to buy a new fridge. Another winner Alan Rowley, spent £100,000 on his garden. One man, who had never been abroad before, treated himself to a trip to China to see an eclipse.

Sadly, there will be no exotic holidays for me, nor a new fridge for that matter. After spraying champagne around the gardens of Weston Park, my all-too-brief time as a lottery millionaire comes to an end.

“Do you want to keep the champagne glass?” asks the man from Camelot. “They’re very sought after.”

Great, thanks. But I still think I’d rather have the cheque.

  • The National Lottery Euromillions draw, which will create 100 new UK millionaires, will be held on July 27