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Luck of the Draw: True Life Tales of Lottery Winners and Losers

by Chris Gudgeon and Barbara Stewart

“Ka-ching!” went the strings of Owen Edmunds’ heart. The Richmond, B.C. cad then phoned his fiancée – collect – to announce that he had won half a million dollars on Lotto 6/49, and that the wedding was off. John Gonsalves got payback in full when his abandoned wife saw his picture in the paper, clutching his $5.1 million winning Massachusetts lottery prize ticket; she sued him for 48 years worth of alimony and child support.

Lottos, scratch and win cards, casinos, bingo games, video lottery terminals: this slim, bouncy compendium covers the entire ticket-strewn waterfront of the big score. Want to know which sex gambles most often? (it’s men); which games offer the best odds? (at the casino, choose roulette; at the corner store, play the scratch cards); how the history of gaming evolved? (computer technology in the 1980s put a billion-plus spin on a system derived from 16th century Venetian urns, and inaugurated the concept of state-run lotteries as a revenue source). All of dice-rolling, horse-betting, ticket-hoarding human life is here, including handy sections on what to do with your millions; the most effective way to draw up an office pool agreement; and the challenges posed by the Internet.

Luck Of The Draw is deft and friendly, but it occasionally comes over like the motormouth CasinoRama lady with the cup of coins at your left elbow – the authors’ jokes and asides wear thin, and the people-are-funny tone owes something to the Dummies/Idiots series. The most engaging sections are the human interest stories: the lost wallets, the broken friendships, and the split families; plus the psychics, con men, squanderers, and jailbirds. The best bet is the story of the prematurely ancient mariner Jimmy Cohoon, recounted here in a way that only partly does justice to one of the most affecting Canadian rags-to-riches-to-rags stories ever told: half a million gone to old girlfriends, car dealers, and bar buddies. Like the lotto ads say: it could be you.