Alive and Scratching

Instant lottery tickets are, if you buy enough of them, a very easy way to lose some money. Like most games of chance, the odds are stacked in favor of the house — in this case, that’s typically the local government via some sort of lottery commission — and the house always wins, at least in the long-term. In the short-term, however, it’s not hard to come out ahead. Almost everyone knows someone who has won $50 or $100 after forking over a buck or two and scratching the security material (it’s typically made of latex, if you were wondering) to reveal the potential prizes hidden beneath.

In other words, winning something from a scratch-off ticket really isn’t all that newsworthy. But every once in a while there’s an exception, and the matter of Bill Morgan, an Australian, is one of them.

First, he died.

Well, he was mostly dead, to borrow a phrase from the Princess Bride. In 1998, Morgan, a truck driver, was in a bad accident, suffering what appeared to be a fatal heart attack in the process. According to various news reports, he was pronounced clinically dead for nearly 15 minutes but was somehow revived — and then fell into a coma. He was in a coma for over a week and his family was advised to remove him from life support systems; there was little to no hope for his recovery or machine-independent survival. To most everyone’s surprise, Morgan emerged from the coma and did so with most of his faculties intact.

A year or so later, Morgan — back on his feet — decided to buy a scratch-off ticket. He won, and won big, taking a prize worth 25,000 Australian dollars, the equivalent of $17,000 (USD), which he used to buy a new car. That, combined with the fact that he had previously been considered deceased, caught the eye of a local television station. And for some strange reasons, the TV station didn’t just cover Morgan’s story during the news broadcast. They decided to also re-enact it. Not the truck accident part, of course. But the TV station asked Morgan to buy another lottery ticket and scratch it off, this time with the cameras rolling. You can (and should) watch it, below.

If you didn’t watch it, the re-enactment held true to the original scratch-off attempt, as Morgan won, again. The only difference? Instead of winning 25,000 Australian dollars, he won 250,000.

Morgan quit while he was ahead. According to CNN, he decided to give up the scratch-off ticket habit after that second win.

Bonus Fact: Some lottery games are beatable, when conditions are right, at least. In 1992, that rare moment happened, and a syndicate of lottery ticket buyers (coincidentally based in Australia) took home a $22 million profit thanks to the Virginia government. As the New York Times reported, the game had only about seven million combinations, tickets sold for a buck, and the prize pool — $27 million — was much more than the cost of purchasing every possible combo. The syndicate was able to purchase about 70% of the available combinations and not only hit the jackpot, but also was the only winner of the grand prize.

From the ArchivesBeating the Odds: Probably the worst-designed lottery in recent history.

RelatedPrank scratch-off lottery tickets.