Norwegian Lottery Winners: Cautious Realists Gudrun Fleischer Eckblad Anna Louise y o n der Lippe

University of Oslo, Norway

T h e study investigated 261 lottery winners of prizes of N K R 1 million (US $150,000) or more in the years 1987-91 in a postal survey. T h e modal Norwegian winners were middle-aged married men of modest education, living in small communities. Emotional reactions to winning were few, aside from moderate happiness and relief. Winners emphasized caution, emotional control and unconspicuous spending, e.g. paying debts and sharing with children. T h e r e was only a slight increase in economic spending. A wish for anonymity was frequent, together with fear of envy from others. Betting was modest both before and after winning. Experiences with winning were predominantly positive. Life quality was stable o r h a d improved. A n age trend was observed, accounting for more variance than any other variable. T h e older winners seemed to represent a puritan subculture of caution, modesty and emotional restraint. A slightly more impatient pattern of spending was characteristic of younger winners. T h e results support Kaplan's 1987 and others' findings that lottery winners are not gamblers, but self-controlled realists and that tenacious, negative cultural expectations to the contrary are myths, but perhaps also deterrents of uncontrolled behavior.


Potential negative consequences resulting from big lottery prizes are of concern to (typically state run) lottery companies, as well as

Send reprint requests to Gudrun Fleischer Eckblad, Institute of Psychology, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1094 BLINDERN, N-0317 Oslo, Norway.

Journal of Gambling Studies Vol. 10(4), Winter 1994 9 1994 Human Sciences Press, Inc.




sociologists and social psychologists. While accumulating wealth through work and achievement is deemed morally acceptable in Western societies, effortless luck is seen as a violation of the puritan ethic. The 'nouveau riche' or 'rags-to-riches' concept carries negative associations, and in Norway, small town attitude criticizes those who flaunt the slightest superiority, including wealth. "Money betting is a social disease and destroys work morals" is a newspaper quote from a Norwegian professor of economics (Strq~mme-Svendsen, 1991). The myth of the corrupted lottery player (Brenner & Brenner, 1990) is as strong in Norway as in Canada and other countries. Indeed, Kaplan's (1978) first report on lottery winners in the United States suggests that the consequences of the public attention winners receive are experienced as negative and the envy and parasitical reactions of others, including family and friends may be destructive. The Norwegian State Lottery, which runs football game betting, the increasingly popular lotto, and other games, therefore launched an investigation to study possible negative personal or social effects of winning large prizes, such as uncontrolled spending, increased gambling, or social ostracism. The anticipation was that the Protestant Ethic, running deep in Norwegian, especially rural, culture, would be a deterrent to the negative effects of sudden wealth. Special attention was paid to younger winners as impulsivity and gambling are greater at a younger age and problem gambling has often been preceded by lottery play (Hraba, Mok & Huff, 1990; Mok & Hraba, 1991). Lottery is considered a variant of gambling. Distinctive characteristics of lottery play are a few disproportionately large prices, low ticket cost, infrequent opportunity to bet and long delay between betting and outcome (Wagenaar, 1988, p. 59). Large losses in a short time are unlikely and at the time of loss, the moderate input is forgotten. In addition, a very large number of lower than ticket cost prizes are handed out and insure frequent winning and entertaining excitement. American and Australian data suggest that among the regular lottery players older, less educated, (mostly high school graduates), and blue collar workers are overrepresented (Walker, 1985; Kaplan, 1978). In a later study of 576 winners of $50,000 and more, Kaplan (1987) found that winners came from quite different educations and occupations, but generally from the higher income brackets. He found that those who were in satisfactory jobs remained, while those in



unskilled jobs more frequently quit their jobs upon winning. Winners did not increase their economic spending substantially, but gave large sums to their children and the church. Winners were largely found to be well adjusted and with positive experiences around winning. Seventy-four winners of prizes in excess of 1 million dollars (Kaplan, 1988) placed small stakes both before and after winning and they did not participate in other forms of gambling. Johnsson (1991) refers to a study of 1,000 gambling addicts, showing that casinos, stockmarkets, sports races and horse races account for more than 80 % of gambling. These are fast games with short time intervals between betting and release of prizes, and increased betting can give an illusory feeling of control. Johnson concludes that lotteries which are not fast games, do not lead to such addiction. A recent study by H r a b a et al. (1990) in a post hoc study, found that lottery playing was a predictor of (other) gambling along with personality traits like impulsivity and background variables like alcohol consumption. Winning large sums on lotteries might therefore speed up an addiction career for impulsive characters. However, while disorders of impulse control are a recurring theme in research on pathological gambling (Lesieur & Rosenthal, 1991), this has not been suggested as a trait describing lottery players generally. In a theoretically motivated study, (Brickman, Coates and Janoff Bulman, 1978) expected that lottery winners would be less happy than anticipated, because subsequent experiences would seem bleak compared to the experience of winning a large sum of money. A study of 22 lottery winners, in fact, confirmed that they were less happy than others and got less joy out of ordinary activities. Up to the present, no European studies have been published on lottery winners and it was felt that regional studies should be made. Passive games like lottery and slot machines are increasing and gambling addiction causes concern. The present study is essentially a replication of Kaplan's studies.


The study was a survey of the total population of winners of one million kroner or more in the years 1987-91 (1 kroner = $0.15 for these years), the only years with such large prizes. In Norway, prizes are taxfree and paid out in one sum, making the winners "instantly rich." A



survey questionnaire in excess of 200 questions was constructed and trial interviews were conducted with winners of prizes slightly below 1 million. Questions addressed themselves to the meaning of winning, to gratifications and possible crises or undue arousal, and anticipated and real social consequences. The questionnaire was revised to a final of 209 items. The questions covered demographic variables, personal reactions to winning immediately and subsequently, the reactions of others (household, relatives, friends, colleagues), life changes, life style and the quality changes as a result of the prize, time elapsed before decisions about utilization of the prize were made, expenditures, satisfaction with choices made and later life situation, and change in gambling behavior. The questionnaire also consisted of open-ended questions to allow for qualitative responses. Lastly, the questionnaire elicited opinions on how the company should treat winners. (Copies of the questionnaire can be obtained from the authors). The study comprised 408 winners. They ranged in time from 4 in 1987 to 122 in 1990~ For about half, less than one year had elapsed since winning. The winners were contacted by the company for informed consent. 373 questionnaires were mailed out with a 60% return. An additional 9% were subsequently interviewed on telephone, 11% refused and 19% could not be reached. Among the refusers reached by telephone, a little more than half gave such reasons as illness, advanced age or sharing the prize with others of a betting team. Those who were negative to the study, most frequently considered winning to be a private matter.

Comparing Responders and Non-responders The responses from the early responders (N = 180), the late responders (after one reminder) (N = 46) and the telephone responders (an initial reject group) (N = 35) were compared in oneway analyses of variance in order to assess the representatives of the original majority. Only 4 differences met the criterion o f p < .01, two-tailed. The interviewed invested less in bonds or property, were more satisfied with their investments and used less on clothes etc. In light of the few differences in responses, it was accepted that the responders were representative for the group of winners, and the three groups were subsequently merged. Straight runs were made for the description of central tendencies. Group differences were analysed in oneway ANOVA's with age, sex, education, size of community, and size of prize



as independent variables. The qualitative data was written out and summarized. Response sets, response consistency, left out responses and use of extremes were analyzed and accounted for where needed.


Background Two thirds of the winners were men (66 %). The mean age was 48.1 year, ranging from 18-87 years and normally distributed. As can be seen from Table i, the educational level was fairly low with 43% compulsory schooling only (9 years or 7 for the eldest). Fourteen percent had completed higher education. Nearly one third went to a trade school. Most came from small communities of less than 50,000 inhabitants, while only 18% came from cities over 100,000. Occupations were widespread among the winners and fairly evenly distributed among independent/professional occupations, the primary industry/ skilled labor and service occupations. The sample consisted of 62% employed and 22% retired or living on social security. Only 12% were homemakers, students or unemployed. Unemployment is on the rise in Norway and 4.7 % in our sample is a slight underrepresentation compared with national figures at the appropriate time. The large majority (76%) were married or cohabiting, with only 14% single and 10% divorced or widowed. Due to age, children had mostly moved out. Since few lived in cities, only 9% lived in flats and the majority lived in their own homes, (66%) or un- or semi-detached houses (20%). Summarizing Table 1, the prototypical Norwegian winner of large prizes is a middle-aged man who is married and has grown children, who lives alone with his wife or perhaps with one child. He lives in a small rural place or small town, may come from a number of occupations, mostly blue collar or lower middle class, and usually has modest education.

Reactions to Winning Norwegian winners did not want publicity. Eighty-seven percent wanted to be anonymous. Among the third whose winning was publicized nevertheless, one half did not like it. Questions about personal reactions to winning were left unanswered by every fifth responder.



Table 1 Background Information on Sample o f W i n n e r s ,

n = 258 Missing (% of Total)

Categories in % of Valid n

Variable Men 171 (66.3)

Women 87 (33.7)

10-29 yrs 36 (14.1)

30-49 yrs 110 (43.1)

50-69 82 (32.2)

70-87 27 (10.6)


University/ college

High school

Trade school


36 (14.00)

33 (13.1)

73 (29.0)

Compulsory school 7-9 yrs 110 (43.6)

Size of community (%)

Under 10.000




91 (37.3)

82 (31.8)

25 (9.7)

Above 100.000 46 (17.8)


Independent/ professional 56 (21.7)

Service jobs

Primary/skilled labor 58 (22.5)



Job status


Retired, social security


n (%)

161 (62.4)

57 (22.1)

Housewife, student, unemployed 31 (12.1))

Civil status


n (%)

Married or cohabiting 193 (75.7)

36 (14.0)

Divorced, widowed 26(10.1)

Housing n (%)

Own house 170 (65.9)

Semi-detached 50 (19.4)

Flat 22 (8.5)

Sex n



(%) Educational level n




75 (29.1)


57 (22.1) 1.9

4 (1.6) 1.2

Other i0 (3.9)


A p p a r e n t l y , these q u e s t i o n s w e r e felt to be difficult o r too p e r s o n a l . T h e r e a c t i o n s are listed in T a b l e 2. As c a n be seen, first r e a c t i o n s w e r e h a p p i n e s s , relief a n d elation, a n d e v e n these w e r e m o d e r a t e : o n l y for " H a p p y , at first" does the m e a n v a l u e clearly e x c e e d the m i d p o i n t o f the scale. T h e r e w e r e a l m o s t n o n e g a t i v e reactions. T h e w i n n e r s w e r e m o d e r a t e l y filled with plans, b u t n o t with wishes to s p e n d . A p p a r e n t l y ,










Table 2 Emotional Reactions to Winning, at First, and Later. Valid n, % of Total, Mean and Standard Deviation t Reactions, First and Later






first** later

3.01 1.93

1.76 2.23

218 212

84.5 82.2


first later

3.83 3.72

2.04 1.98

212 211

82.2 81.8


first** later

1.17 0.64

1.95 1.46

209 204

81.0 79.1


first** later

2.53 0.71

2.20 1.21

209 207

81.0 80.2


first** later

0.85 0.16

1.63 0.71

211 208

81.8 80.6

Eager to buy

first later

1.60 1.49

1.72 1.82

208 207

80.6 80.2


first** later

5.11 4.71

1.40 1.59

239 238

92.6 92.2


first** later

0.78 0.45

1.58 1.06

209 205

81.0 79.5


first** later

0.76 0.19

1.59 0.71

208 206

80.6 79.8

Full of plans

first* later

2.24 2.04

2.01 2.12

210 209

81.4 81.0

Fear of publicity

first** later first** later

2.93 1.86 2.38 1.77

2.26 2.53 2.40 2.24

219 211 217 214

84.9 81.8 84.1 82.9

Fear of requests for gifts

first** later

1.55 1.09

2.17 1.88

215 211

83.3 81.8

Worried that the money would be insufficient

first** later

0.29 0.54

0.99 1.35

211 209

81.8 81.0

Fear of envy

1Scores f r o m 0 ("absolutely not") to 6 ("very m u c h " ) , m i d p o i n t = 3. T o t a l n = 258. *Difference m e a n (first) - m e a n (later), m a t c h e d t-test, p < .05 **Difference m e a n (first) - m e a n (later), m a t c h e d t-test, p < .01



f e a r o f e n v y i f o t h e r s w e r e i n f o r m e d w a s p a r t o f t h e w i s h for a n o n y m ity. T h e r e s p o n d e n t s w e r e a s k e d a b o u t t h e s a m e r e a c t i o n s a f t e r s o m e t i m e h a d e l a p s e d . O n l y h a p p i n e s s a n d r e l i e f w e r e still h i g h . T h e o t h e r r e a c t i o n s r e m a i n e d low.

Social Problems and Life Events R e a c t i o n s f r o m t h e social n e t w o r k a r e r e p o r t e d for f o u r g r o u p s : h o m e , r e l a t i v e s , f r i e n d s a n d p e o p l e at w o r k . A m o n g t h e t w o last categories, many remained uninformed and therefore had no reactions. Table 3 shows the distributions. Overall, positive reactions p r e d o m i n a t e . P o s i t i v e r e a c t i o n s also s h o w a d e c r e a s i n g t e n d e n c y w i t h i n c r e a s i n g social d i s t a n c e a n d w i t h a c o n c o m i t a n t i n c r e a s e in n e g a t i v e r e a c t i o n s . N e g a t i v e r e a c t i o n s , like e n v y , w e r e m o d e r a t e in s t r e n g t h . T h e r e s p o n d e n t s w e r e also a s k e d a b o u t a t t i t u d e s a m o n g o t h e r s to h o w t h e m o n e y s h o u l d b e i n v e s t e d . H e r e , p e o p l e o u t s i d e t h e h o m e h a d few o p i n i o n s o r d e m a n d s a n d at h o m e t h e r e w a s a n 8 0 % a g r e e m e n t o n investments. Teasing and joking were more frequent reactions. One


Table 3 from the Social Network, Frequencies in % of Totaln = 258






At Work

Were glad

A lot / a little Not at all / missing

91.4 8.6

84.0 16.0

73.3 26.7

51.6 48.4

Envied me

A lot / a little Not at all / missing

7.0 93.0

31.4 68.6

39.9 60.1

32.2 67.8

Disagreed in use of prize

A lot / a little Not at all / missing

8.5 91.5

12.8 87.2

8.1 91.9

5.4 94.6

Had wishes and demands

A lot / a little Not at all / missing

19.0 81.0

12.4 87.6

6.2 93.8

3.9 96.1

Teased and joked

A lot / a little Not at all / mxssmg

22.1 77.9

31.4 68.6

42.2 57.8

33.7 66.3

Treated me differently

A lot / a little Not at all / missing

5.4 94.6

12.4 87.6

17.9 82.1

12.0 88.0

There were problems

A lot / a little Not at all / mxssmg

5.4 94.6

7.8 92.2

6.2 93.8

4.7 95.3



fourth experienced this at home, and one third among relatives and friends/colleagues. Ten to 20% felt that relatives, friends and people at work treated them differently after they became millionaires, while this did not happen at home (5%). Apparently, spouse and children reacted only with pleasure, while others did a fair bit of joking and teasing in addition. As can be seen from Table 3, very few encountered problems with close relatives or friends/colleagues. If they met with problems it was with more distant kin.

Changes in Life Quality

The winners reported few major life events since winning, and not in excess of what would be expected among an ageing group of 215. Those few who lost their job (4.3%) experienced stress in that connection. For 66% of the sample, life had improved. Only one person reported an impoverished life quality. Naturally, the economy was better than before and 42% reported that they enjoyed life more, the rest reported no change. Two thirds reported less worry. Marriage, relationship to children, and health were mostly unchanged. As with the winners, 25% of their partners and even 20% of their children were reported to have a better life quality. The prize seemed to have been beneficial to many people.

Prize Utilization

Eighty-one percent of those who responded won 1-2 million Norwegian kroner (NKR), while 14% won 2-4 million and only 4% won more than 4 million. In Table 4 the categories 0 and no answer have been combined in that we assume no answer to mean that they have not used the prize on the overall response category. As reported, down payments on debts were common, mostly between US $15,000-70,000 (100,000-500,000 N K R . ) Gifts to children were either less than US $10,000 (24%) or between $15,000 and 70,000 (28%). Altogether, 72% bestowed gifts on their children. Only 15% gave money to charity. Most of the winners placed their money in the bank and only one third invested in bonds or property. A majority were pleased with their dispositions, but there was a large percentage who did not answer these questions.



Table 4 P r i z e U t i l i z a t i o n , F r e q u e n c i e s i n % o f V a l i d n. T o t a l n = 258

(1 US Dollar = Approx. N K R 7.50)

Prize Utilization

O/Missing 1-50. 000 % of Total NKR

51. 000100. 000 NKR

101. 000500. 000 NKR

A bore 500. 000 NKR

Paid off mortgage




53. I


Gifts to children and other close persons






Gifts to charity






Investment in stocks or property






Investment in own business






Savings account






E v e r y fifth winner b o u g h t a house and every o t h e r w i n n e r redecorated or i m p r o v e d their home. E v e r y other w i n n e r b o u g h t a car, mostly expensive ones. O t h e r than that, the winners showed r e m a r k a b l e reserve in their spending. In addition they were highly satisfied with their investments and acquisitions ( m e a n values 5.2 and 5.4 with a m a x i m u m scale value of 6, T a b l e 5). T h r e e fifths of the sample felt they had m a d e very sober decisions, while 17% felt they had been too rash. Seventytwo percent m a d e their decisions within the first three months. Changes in Life Style

T h e r e were r e m a r k a b l y few changes in life style and activities a m o n g the winners. O n e third travel m o r e , and one third have a h i g h e r daily c o n s u m p t i o n . W e imagine that the latter figure is too low, since two thirds do not report a c c u m u l a t e d savings. Alternatively, they have m i s u n d e r s t o o d this question to m e a n active plans for saving m o n e y (which they would not find natural), not the a u t o m a t i c a c c u m u l a t i o n of surplus m o n e y . Changes in Gambling

Lastly, questions were asked about g a m b l i n g behavior. W i n n i n g a large prize does not seem to invite increased g a m b l i n g in N o r w a y .



Table 5 Satisfaction with Economic Decisions. Mean, Standard Deviation, Valid n and % of Total n = 258





Investments R e g r e t all (0) - satisfied with all (6)



253 (98%)

Acquisitions R e g r e t all (0) - satisfied with all (6)



241 (93 %)

D i d y o u use m o n e y too fast N o t at all (0) - absolutely (6)



247 (96%)

H o w l o n g did you take to decide (in m o n t h s ) - h a v e n ' t decided yet (6)



252 (98%)

Sixty-six percent use $6 or less a week on football t i p p i n g a n d 74% use $15 or less a week on Lotto. F r o m 12 to 2 6 % use m o r e m o n e y t h a n before. V e r y few bet on the horses or e n g a g e in g a m b l i n g games. T h e m o t i v e s for playing were evenly divided b e t w e e n e x c i t e m e n t a n d the p r o s p e c t of winning. H a l f the winners w a n t no u p p e r limit on prizes, while 4 3 % who w a n t a limit m o s t often m e n t i o n 3 million N K R ($500,000). P a r t of the e x c i t e m e n t seems to be a potentially e n o r m o u s sum of money.

Group Differences T h e d a t a were analysed with regard to g r o u p differences in prize size, sex, age, c o m m u n i t y size, a n d education. W h e r e possible, one w a y A N O V A or e q u i v a l e n t n o n p a r a m e t r i c m e t h o d s w e r e used. O t h erwise, t-tests of i n d e p e n d e n t g r o u p s were used. D u e to the m a n y c o m p a r i s o n s , only variables that show significant differences b e t w e e n g r o u p s at a p-value of .01 or smaller are listed in the tables.

Prize Size. L a r g e a n d smaller winners were c o m p a r e d , dividing those w h o w o n two million N K R or m o r e f r o m those who w o n b e t w e e n one a n d two million. T h o s e who w o n m o r e t h a n two million, felt m o r e e n v y f r o m relatives. I n addition, they n a t u r a l l y h a d a b e t t e r financial position, used a n d invested m o r e m o n e y , a n d gave m o r e to their children. O t h e r w i s e there were no differences b e t w e e n these groups.




D i f f e r e n c e s w e r e s u r p r i s i n g l y few. W o m e n

r e a c t e d at first

more emotionally, with significantly more excitement, insomnia and worry than men. Later, they were happier than men and had more p l a n s . T h e y also r e p o r t b e i n g m e t w i t h m o r e feelings b y o t h e r s , w h o reacted with more pleasure on their behalf. T h e female w i n n e r s were also m o r e p l e a s e d w i t h t h e i r i n v e s t m e n t s . T h e y i n v e s t e d less i n b o n d s , p r o p e r t y , a n d b u s i n e s s . T h e y u s e d less m o n e y o n f o o t b a l l t i p p i n g a n d lotto, w e r e less i n v e s t e d i n w i n n i n g a n d less o f t e n w a n t e d e x p a n s i o n of games a n d games without an u p p e r limit on prizes.

Age Trends. T h e s a m p l e was d i v i d e d i n t o t h r e e e q u a l l y l a r g e g r o u p s a c c o r d i n g to age. T a b l e 6 shows t h a t o n all v a r i a b l e s w h e r e the g r o u p s differ s i g n i f i c a n t l y , t h e r e is a l i n e a r age t r e n d , u s u a l l y s u c h t h a t the r e s p o n s e d e c r e a s e s w i t h i n c r e a s i n g age ( F i g u r e 1). T h o u g h


d i f f e r e n c e s are small, t h e y are h i g h l y s i g n i f i c a n t . T h e oldest age g r o u p


Table 6 & Social Reactions of Winners Groups. Mean,

in Three Age

n, and F-Values

Age Brackets

Reactions Elated - at first Relieved - at first Relieved - later Excited - at first Wanted to buy - at first Wanted to buy - later Worried - at first Full of plans - at first Full of plans - later Fear of publicity - later People at work were happy Friends teased People at work teased Money spent too soon a different from b a different from b and c 3 a and b different from c




13-38 yrs N = 83

39-56 yrs N = 88

57-87 yrs N = 83


3.6 4.3 4.2 3.3 2.2 1.9 1.4 2.9 2.6 1.9 2.4 1.8 1.8 1.8

3.0 3.8 3.7 2.3 1.6 1.5 0.5 2.1 1.8 1.2 2.4 1.8 1.7 1.2

2.3 3.3 3.2 1.7 0.8 0.9 0.4 1.5 1.7 2.5 1.9 1.4 1.4 0.9

6.181 3.80 l 4.361 10.862 10.163 5.30 l 8.341 7.361 4.532 6.161 7.553 7.961 5.711 5.141



Figure 1 M e a n Scores o n Four Variables I n d i c a t i n g I m p a t i e n c e as a F u n c t i o n of Age 1

4.0 3-5l






g 1






Exdted4irsl Eager to buy-first



Furlof plans



Age groups

1Rangeand meanage (in parenthesis)for the threegroups:Group1:13-38(30.2),Group2: 39-56 (46.6),Group3:57-87 (66.6).

reported less elation, relief, excitement, wishes to buy things, and had fewer plans; and less pleasure and teasing among friends and colleagues. The only reaction that was stronger in the oldest group, was "Fear of publicity, later." With increasing age, smaller sums were used to pay offdebts (e.g. 16% of the two youngest age groups paid off 100-500,000 N K R , against 5% in the oldest group) (Chi-square = 23.71, df = 8, p < .01) and larger sums were transferred to children (gifts of 100-500,000 N K R were made by 6, 12 and 15 per cent of the age groups respectively) (Chi-square - 35.14, df = 8, p

Norwegian lottery winners: Cautious realists.

The study investigated 261 lottery winners of prizes of NKR 1 million (US $150,000) or more in the years 1987-91 in a postal survey. The modal Norwegi...
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