Martyn McLaughlin: Odds against lottery winner's search for contentment

Jane Park's sense of entitlement defies logic, but she still has a chance of finding happiness, writes Martyn McLaughlin

Jane Park, who was featured on a BBC Scotland TV programme after landing £1 million on the Euromillions lottery, now says that the windfall has left her miserable and stressed. Picture: Jane Barlow

The sorry story of Jane Park is an instructive reminder that even lottery winners do not always get what they wish for.

She was a teenager when she paid a trip to her local newsagents in Edinburgh one summer’s day in 2013 and, for the first time in her life, chose to put on a Euromillions ticket.

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It was an impulsive purchase, but like millions of other players across the continent, she fancied that fortune might knock at her door. Few ever hear the call. Fewer still are prepared to answer it.

At first glance, Ms Park appeared to be the exception. She seemed relatively grounded when the news came through that had her chance flutter had made her a millionaire. Though only 17, she was in gainful employment as a membership development assistant with the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

As she brandished the obligatory oversized cheque spelling out her newfound wealth, toasting her win with a glass of carbonated soft drink, she resolved to put the windfall to pragmatic use.

“I think it will change my lifestyle but I don’t think it will change me, I think I will still be the same person that I have been for the past 17 years,” she explained. “I can definitely buy a house, a car and go on holidays without having to worry about paying bills. I think that’s the most important thing.”

Four years on, however, Ms Park has strayed from the prudent path she set out for herself. Having had time to reflect on that life-changing moment she won her share of the jackpot - a period in which her interest payments alone could have totalled upwards of £100,000 if invested wisely - she has concluded that winning has left her miserable and stressed.

“I thought it would make it ten times better but it’s made it ten times worse,” she says. “I wish I had no money most days. I say to myself, ‘My life would be so much easier if I hadn’t won.’”

Astonishingly, Ms Park has found pity has been in short supply since deciding to share her tale of woe at the weekend, perhaps because only a handful of people who know what it is like to have serendipity suddenly unlock untold chances and opportunities.

Or perhaps it is because she has adopted a position of such staggering entitlement and stupidity, it is hard to know precisely how to respond.

Not content with blaming her Euromillions win for her current despairing state, she has threatened to sue the draw’s British operators, Camelot, arguing that was she too young to cope with such an unexpected gain.

In doing so, she has demonstrated a singular grasp of logic. If the prospective legal action runs its full course and finds in the company’s favour, she will be quickly parted from her remaining fortune. Win, however, and she stands to enjoy a handsome payout, the very root of her anguish.

Given such dismal choices, it is hard to dismiss the notion that Ms Park, still only 20, has been poorly advised along the way; it is telling that, even four years on, she enlists the services of a prominent Shoreditch-based publicist, for which she is no doubt paying through the nose. Whatever the outcome of her legal fight, she stands to lose, which in turn begs the question: does she know what she wants in the first place?

Like every major lottery winner, Ms Park was offered support by Camelot. The firm employs a dedicated team of advisers tasked with helping the newly rich. The counsel they provide is different for each and every ticketholder, but generally, the guidance offered by the six-strong group is basic common sense: take your time to decide what you want to do with the money and, ideally, take a holiday before you start spending in earnest.

The company is under no obligation to look after its winners, it is simply a good PR strategy, designed to prevent modern day morality tales such as that of Mikey Carroll, who famously squandered his £9.7m winnings on an array of vices before running high and dry. That is bad, most obviously, for Mr Carroll, but it also provides ammunition to the lottery’s political critics.

There is, of course, a limit to Camelot’s benevolence. Buried away in its latest corporate responsibility report is a telling line relating to its aforementioned network of advisers. “They remain a source of support and advice for as long as a winner needs them,” it states. It would be instructive to know for how long Ms Park, for one, maintained that relationship.

In any case, there is a breathtaking naivety in her insistence that a lottery operator - a commercial enterprise regulated, lest we forget, by the Gambling Commission - should be legally bound to look after its luckiest customers. Its chief concern is generating revenue.

Ms Park struck upon a sizeable sum of money with no effort or sacrifice, but it appears to have given her a misplaced belief that other privileges are within her grasp. If she persists in seeking them out, she will surely discover that further scorn and sadness lie in wait.

Only Ms Park can decide what she does next, but it may not be the worst idea in the world for her to dispense with her expensive publicist, retreat from the pages of the tabloid press, and divide what remains of her winnings between a long-term savings account and charitable causes.

There is no guarantee it will make her happy, but the odds would once more be in her favour.