LONDON: When those magic lottery numbers come up, you might scream with excitement, sit in stunned silence or run to call a loved one. But sooner or later you will come across someone like Andy Carter.
You could call him the man who makes dreams come true.
Carter is a winners’ adviser for Camelot, the organisers of the lottery in Britain, where three ticket holders have won huge EuroMillions jackpots since January each worth around 50 million euros (US$65 million).
It’s his job to check your winning ticket and arrange for the funds to be transferred into your bank account. And then he’ll hold your hand while you work out what on Earth you’re going to do with the money.
“People are in shock, and quite often scared of what’s going to happen. They want reassurance that this is real, this is happening,” Carter told AFP.
His advice to every one of his winners begins with three words: “Take your time.” By which he means, try to keep a clear head, take some legal and financial advice, and don’t leave your job or your partner just yet.
Hotel chef Neil Baker was put in touch with Carter when he won £1.6 million (US$2.6 million) on the national lottery in February last year, and says his advice was invaluable – although he handed in his notice 24 hours after scooping the jackpot, and hasn’t looked back.
“I play a little bit of rugby, I quite enjoy going out fishing. It’s just nice just to do what you want, when you want,” he told AFP.
But Baker is aware of the need to be careful with his winnings if he wants his life of leisure to last, and is full of praise for the support he received from Carter and his colleagues at Camelot.
“They don’t just turn up and say here’s a cheque, off you go, have a nice life. I think they’ve learned that you can’t just drop an amount of money in someone’s lap like that,” he said.
The case of Michael Carroll, a former rubbish collector who won £10 million a decade ago, offers a cautionary tale.
Then aged just 19, he bought a mansion where he held lavish parties and set up a demolition race track in the garden, but he also developed a drugs habit, had several run-ins with the police, and now lives on welfare handouts.
“I think sometimes you can win too much on the lottery – you’ve got more money than you’re ever going to need,” Baker says.
Carter believes most people are actually quite sensible, saying they often spend their money not on fast cars and a whole new life, but on a new home, helping out family and friends, and donating large amounts to charity.
‘It’s a strange job’
Many have modest ambitions for the cash.
Catherine Bull, 35, who with her husband Gareth won 48.9 million euros on the EuroMillions in January, said what she really wanted was to replace the carpet on the upstairs landing, as the old one was “terrible”.
People who win really big can face a wave of demands, however, particularly if they have gone public.
When Colin and Christine Weir, an unassuming, middle-aged Scottish couple, announced they had won 185 million euros on the EuroMillions last July they were inundated by sacks of begging letters which forced them to move house.
Carter advised the Weirs but won’t discuss their decision to tell the world of their good fortune, a move that was clearly good publicity for Camelot but appears to have left the couple open to unwanted attention.
However, he points out that it can be hard to keep the news quiet, a fact acknowledged by Christine Weir, who told her local newspaper: “If we hadn’t told anyone, people would have thought we were laundering money.”
Baker didn’t want to go public about his win last year, but when the local newspaper got hold of the story, Carter advised him to come clean.
In the end, £1.6 million was not enough to make him a celebrity, a situation he is happy with, allowing him to continue a quiet life living with his mum in the same house, and splashing out occasionally on designer sunglasses or a holiday.
“The money we’ve won is a nice amount of money, you can’t knock it, but the more you win the more you get followed, and we’ve had no problem with that,” the 37-year-old said.
Carter says the Weirs are now happily settled in their new home, and insists that the money improves the lives of the majority of winners.
He is barred by company rules from playing the lottery himself, but the bond he forges with his clients – he is often invited to weddings or children’s baptisms – means he can bask in their good fortune.
“It’s a strange job because by and large you only deal with very happy people in very happy circumstances,” the 38-year-old says.
For many people, “their win seems to come just in time, when they’re really struggling”, Carter adds. “Particularly nowadays – people don’t have jobs, they are feeling the squeeze, and the lottery is providing a bit of hope.”