The day before Thanksgiving, 1996, a group of 43 farmers from Roby, TX pooled their money to buy 430 lottery tickets. The next day, they won a $46 million prize. Roby, a town of only 600 inhabitants, was suddenly full of millionaires.
In an ideal world, those winning would have saved Roby, a floundering cotton farming town facing severe drought. But that didn’t happen.
Many winners used their jackpots–$1.085,162 total, or $39,000/year–for practical uses, like starting college funds, paying off loans, or buying new pickup trucks, according to the September 2004 issue of Texas Monthly.
Though “the town’s farmers could finally breathe a sigh of relief,” few prospered from their winnings. Most winners cut deals with lottery buyout brokers, who gave them cash upfront in exchange for future annual payments, writes Pamela Colloff, author of the Texas Monthly article. In the end, she says, that left them with roughly 1/3 of their original winnings. Bad business ventures and a plague of untimely bad luck didn’t help.
Years later, Roby remains a dying town. “For all the trouble the lottery brought on me, I don’t know whether to be happy I won or sorry I didn’t,” said Lance Green, the town’s mayor at the time.