With £115 million up for grabs tonight, what's it like to win the lottery in lockdown?
Tonight somebody could win £115 million on the EuroMillions lottery and, as the saying goes, it could be you.
But what is it like to find yourself instantly wealthy in these very serious times?
Andy Carter is the man who hands over the big cheques. For the past 14 years he has been a senior winners' adviser of lottery operator Camelot, and he says that the experience has become very different following the lockdown.
While the start of the process is unchanged – people with winning tickets will telephone a winners' hotline, give the full details of their ticket, including the serial number and where they purchased it. But whereas before the pandemic, Andy and his team would follow up with a home visit, this is not possible under the present regulations.
"It is all done via a video call at the moment," he says. "It is obviously better to go round to somebody's house, and meet them face-to-face, but we are not able to do that.
"Doing it over the video link is a bit different, but it works. We go through the process just the same as if we would meet them in their own home."
But what about the winners who do not have access to video conferencing technology? Well it appears that when millions of pounds are at stake, they get hold of it pretty fast.
"We have had over 200 winners since the lockdown began, and only a couple who haven't been able to do that," he says.
"Of course, a lot more people have been using video links over the past couple of months anyway, and those who don't have it usually have someone who can help them.
"There have been a couple of occasions when we have had to go out, give them the forms on the doorstep, and sit in the car while they fill them out, but obviously that's not ideal."
Andy, 47, has noticed a change in the way people react to winning the lottery since the pandemic broke out. People are much less extrovert and more contemplative, he says.
"People always say what they would do if they won the lottery, but what we're finding at the moment is that people have actually had the time to think about what they are going to be doing, and what they want to do," says Andy.
He adds that people are less likely to take the Viv Nicholson 'spend, spend, spend!' approach, and will think carefully about using their new-found wealth wisely.
"People have been a bit more quiet, a bit more private," he says. "People haven't felt like celebrating in quite the same way, they are aware there's a lot of serious stuff going on at the moment."
This is backed up by a survey commissioned by Camelot last week, which found that lotto winners were more likely to want a camper van and a bungalow on the coast than a supercar and a luxury cruise.
The earlier period of the lockdown, when most shops were shut, meant it was not possible to hit the shops and splurge on luxury goods anyway, and Andy says this has given people the opportunity to think about how they can share their good fortune with others.
"People are increasingly wanting to give money to charity, and particularly to give time to charity," he says. "They haven't been able to go out and buy great things."
Andy hopes home visits will be able to resume soon, as the restrictions ease, but in the meantime the aim is ensuring that the winners are still able to enjoy their special moment.
"It's a better experience for them if we are able to do it face-to-face rather than over the phone or by email," Andy says.
"Winning the lottery is a amazing experience, and it is our job to give them something they will always remember."
Of course, there is a serious purpose to the video meetings, and this is to allow the winning tickets to be checked and identities to be verified. Winners are also offered financial and legal advice, and their 'handlers' will usually arrange a follow-up meeting a couple of weeks after to ensure they are well.
"It's not just about dishing money out," says Andy. People have had a shock, and it's our job to help them and ensure they are all right."
One piece of advice Andy normally gives to winners is that they should book a holiday, giving them an opportunity to reflect on how their life is about to change. Quarantine rules and the grounding of many aircraft obviously place limitations on that at the moment, but Andy says it is still something he recommends, even if that means a week in St Ives rather than St Lucia.
"The important thing is to buy something to mark the occasion, so that you know you have really won."
One couple who have been through that experience – albeit in more normal times – are Tom and Rita Naylor, who live near Weston Park in Staffordshire.
The couple, who were living in Wednesbury at the time, scooped £15.5 million on the midweek draw, and remember the experience as if it were last week.
Tom, who was working as a lorry driver, says they normally played the lottery on Saturdays only, using the same numbers each week. But one Wednesday in November, 2001, when driving home from a delivery, he noticed a lottery ticket had fallen out of his bag. Seeing it as an omen, he called Rita from Frankley services, near Halesowen, suggesting they bought a Lottery Extra ticket for the evening draw.
The couple had just finished watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire? when Tom checked on Teletext and saw his numbers had come up. As is often the case, he needed a second opinion, and asked Rita to check the numbers for him.
"I asked Rita 'What do we do now?'," he recalls. "She said 'You've got to ring Camelot', but I said 'There will be nobody there now', it was about 9.30 at night.
"I just kept checking the ticket. "I rang Camelot, and they asked me for the serial number.
"They called me back and told me I had got a winning ticket, but they didn't tell me how many other winners there were, whether we would be sharing the jackpot with 15 or 20 other people, the girl just said they would send to representatives round at 10 the next morning.
"Just after we had the phone call, the page on Teletext changed to say the jackpot had been won by one winner. It was then that we realised we had won £15.5 million."
When the agents came the next morning, they scanned the winning ticket, before briefly taking their passports and driving licences for verification.
Shortly afterwards, their new bank manager arrived, handing them £1,000 on arrival in case they needed any urgent spending money.
"I wasn't well paid as a lorry driver, and I had never seen £1,000 in my life," he says.
"I was handed a letter congratulating me on the win, and at the bottom was the cheque," recalls Tom, now 65. The bank manager just tore it off, I thought 'You might give me a chance to read it!' Before we knew it the money was in the account.
"He asked us about our old bank account, and said we might want a bit of money put in that. He said 'how does £10,000 sound?', and transferred the money across."
While Tom saw the win as a big relief, enabling the couple to pay off their mortgage and credit card bills – as well as allowing Tom to indulge in his passion for luxury cars – Rita was initially quite worried about how it would change their life.
"We lived in a three-bed semi in Wednesbury, and Rita didn't want to move," says Tom. "She wanted to buy the house next door and knock it down to build garages for my cars."
Tom and Rita are still in regular contact with the lottery agents who visited them the morning after their big win. They also took full advantage of the financial and legal advice provided by Camelot, which has enabled them to invest wisely.
Rita, 62, has come to terms with the win, and says the couple have remained grounded despite being rich beyond their wildest dreams.
"I still go to Wednesbury to do my shopping," she says.
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