QUITTING smoking might be good for your health, but for one Irish emigrant in America, the financial reward was far greater than he could have dreamed.
Brendan Riordan (28), originally from Co Cavan but now living in New York, secured a lottery win worth more than $10m (€7.6m) on a ticket bought with cash that would have usually gone on cigarettes.
He gave up smoking a few years after moving to America in 2003 and last month spent money that his mother gave him for his birthday on a lottery ticket instead. Mr Riordan said he couldn't believe his eyes on January 29 when the ‘Win For Life Spectacular' scratch-off lottery ticket showed that he was a winner.
He will receive a minimum prize of $10m in 20 annual instalments of $520,000 (€395,000) or $337,256 (€256,000) after tax.
Once the minimum has been reached, Mr Riordan will continue to receive an annual cheque for life and could end up winning more than $25m (€19m).
The single real-estate agent said that moving to the predominantly working-class area of Yonkers in New York had turned out to be one of the best decisions of his life. “I quit smoking,” he said. “I got my real-estate licence and I won the lottery.”
He told a local newspaper: “I still can't believe it. Nothing has changed from last Sunday to today and I'm going to take my time and think things through.”
He lives with his parents Mary and John and his mother has said that she is delighted with the win. She described how she gave her son money for his birthday, which he used to buy the lotto tickets. “Little did we know that one of them would be this big,” she said.
Mr Riordan said that on the Saturday that he bought the tickets he had been driving around looking at properties and decided to stop for a couple of tickets.
He bought the winning ticket from a local Irish mini-market. He began scratching the cards that Saturday evening but got distracted by something on television.
It was not until Sunday morning that he discovered that he was a winner. “I matched the number 19 on the top and bottom and kept thinking there must be a mistake.
“I passed the ticket to my parents, but they don't play the lottery, so they weren't much help,” he laughed. New Yorkers are now voicing the typical cliche about “the luck of the Irish” but Mr Riordan doesn't mind. “I'll take it, whatever it is. If it's the luck of the Irish or whatever,” he said.
He is now planning a trip back to Ireland in celebration and said that he was considering buying property here.