After the dream comes true, it’s off to Lottery HQ for champagne and sage advice

Winners can relax and read coffee-table books with titles such as ‘Great Escapes’ and ‘New York Interiors’. If they want to spray champagne, they can go out into the courtyard

John Gallagher from Co Donegal in the National Lottery winners’ room celebrating a €41,096 EuroMillions win last November. Photograph: Mac Innes

John Gallagher from Co Donegal in the National Lottery winners’ room celebrating a €41,096 EuroMillions win last November. Photograph: Mac Innes

Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 01:03

You may dream of it, but what really happens when you win the lottery? A team of advisers at National Lottery headquarters says the first thing you should do is . . . nothing. They encourage winners to let the news sink in for up to six months.

“Coming into millions of euros overnight takes a little bit of handling,” says lottery spokeswoman Paula McEvoy. “Those who have taken time – who haven’t made rash decisions – are the people who have ended up the happiest.”

When winners come in to claim their prize, which they have 90 days to do, Ms McEvoy advises them to write down their wish-list on a blank sheet of paper. She tells them to include everything they always dreamed of doing with a large sum of money, then refine it every day for a month. At the end of the month, the list is usually “completely different than what people said when they started”.

Winners are often nervous when they arrive at the headquarters in Dublin to claim their prize. She says a recent winner of €5.9 million from Kilkenny, who chose to remain private, “visibly blanched” when presented with his giant cheque.

Winners usually come in with a group of family and friends, but some people stop by on their lunch breaks without any fanfare. Either way, they are escorted to the “winners’ room” to drink champagne on cream leather couches. The room accommodates 25 people, but there is a larger room downstairs for syndicates. Once there, the remote-controlled blinds are lowered and a flat-screen television emerges from behind a panel.

Winners and their entourage watch a three-minute video featuring a smooth-talking Craig Doyle delivering advice about the realities of winning a large sum of money. The down-to-earth tips include opening a bank account, making a will, paying off debts and not rushing into a spending spree.

After the video, winners can relax in the room and read coffee-table books with titles such as Luxury Toys, Great Escapes and New York Interiors. If they want to spray champagne, they can go out into the courtyard. They are given bottles of champagne and etched National Lottery souvenir glasses to take home.

The team at National Lottery headquarters started giving away the souvenir glasses after “champagne glasses started diminishing in large numbers”, says Ms McEvoy. These items are kept behind a hidden door in the room. Then, if the winner chooses to go public, there is a one-hour press conference with the media. There is an enduring myth that winners are paid extra to go public.

“That doesn’t happen,” she adds.

During the press conference, a massive cheque, both literally and figuratively, is presented by National Lottery chief executive Dermot Griffin. Then what? “Money doesn’t solve problems but it makes things a lot easier,” Ms McEvoy says.