Lotto is one of the great traditions of modern South African culture. Like many countries throughout the continent and around the world, there’s little more thrilling than the prospect of striking it lucky and earning a big pay-out.
And while we all enjoy seeing somebody’s life changed by lotto success, there are a number of celebrities, in South Africa and further afield, who also enjoy the games. Famous lotto winners who have enjoyed success betting on games of chance include the likes of George Clooney, Liz Hurley and Madonna.
Clooney and Hurley both donated their winnings to the efforts supporting the victims of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 after landing a huge pay-out from Italian lottery SuperEnaLotto. Amazingly, Madonna’s win also came in Italy and she too donated her winnings to good causes. The singer, songwriter and actress donated the money to help fund the construction of schools in Malawi, where her adopted son David was born.
Other celebrities have used the lottery in a different way to show off their generosity. For example, Hugh Jackman made a habit of buying lotto tickets for his colleagues on set in Hollywood, amounting to hundreds of purchases every week for those he works with. Jackman’s kind gestures, which he hoped would help others find their own fortune, started a small tradition, and now several other actors and actresses do the same thing.
And while South African billionaire Elon Musk has not earned his fortune through betting on games of chance, he’s taken plenty of gambles in business during the last 25 years.
Musk has established and built four major companies during his business career, starting with Zip2 in 1995, which helped print publications become established online, before launching Tesla and SpaceX later in life, the two brands he is perhaps best known for today.
Each venture required a huge amount of investment and no shortage of faith that his innovations would work. So while Musk is not a lottery winner, he is certainly somebody who has played a game of chance at many stages of his business career.
Golfer Ernie Els, born in Johannesburg, tries to take luck out of his game wherever possible, but will be one of the first to admit that good fortune plays a key role in the sport. Golfers like Els must take a chance on all manner of factors outside of their control, such as changing wind conditions.
Meanwhile, many South Africans have achieved minor celebrity status following big lottery wins, but not always for the right reasons. Sibusiso Cebekhuliu is said to have squandered most of his money after scooping a big pay-out in 2000.
Cebekhuliu is reckoned to have spent his money on funding a lavish and sometimes reckless lifestyle, though the Lotto winner himself claims to have used a lot of it looking after his friends. Whatever the true factors, his tale is often recounted as a lesson to others on how not to look after your money.
But not all of the stories are so sad, and some South Africans have enjoyed tremendous luck, not just once, but twice. One anonymous player earned a big pay-out of R11m in 2002, but rather than retiring from work and enjoying their fortune, this lucky winner continued to buy tickets. And his approach proved very lucrative as he won again in 2009, and this time the pay-out was three times as big!
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Zita Zimande is a sports news journalist from the University of Johannesburg. Besides being a sports fanatic, she loves to cook during her spare time.