Canadian Lottery Using VR to Help Winners Handle Fallout

The state lottery in Quebec has joined forces with an anti-bullying group to employ virtual reality technology with the aim of helping winners prepare for the chaotic scenarios that often follow big wins.

A VR headset in use

Counselling lottery winners is the latest in a long-line of uses identified for VR technology.

Loto-Quebec’s partnership with the Jasmine Roy Foundation was established because of the often-overlooked pitfalls associated with sudden wealth.

It was deemed that virtual reality could be a useful tool in sensitising a jackpot winner to the upcoming trials and tribulations they may encounter, involving “important decisions, both on the emotional and financial level”. This could include talking to friends and family members who are anxious to get their hands on some of the money, receiving unsolicited requests from charities keen on getting donations, and scammers.

The concept of “sensitisation” has become a key concept in virtual reality, and a growing number of psychologically therapeutic solutions using the technology have been identified. For instance, the United Nations has incorporated virtual reality to immerse people into a Syrian refugee camp, in a bid to sensitise people to human suffering and make them more empathetic to their cause.

Loto-Quebec intends to offer the treatment to people who have won more than £15,000, which is around 1,500 people per year in Quebec. On Wednesday, a man who won £310,000 on a mobile game became the first to try the technology.

Lottery winners are not obliged to try the free experience, which is designed to complement a pre-existing counselling program, although its creators claim it sensitises people to the pitfalls of winning the lottery “better than any other tool”. The educational scenarios last eight minutes long, and in one example, the winner is approached at a house party by someone explaining how they’d love to own property in Florida.

They’re all just little situations where the person is speaking to you… And it just prepares them for what might be coming once they walk out the door with their cheque. Brian LeCompte, Loto-Quebec Spokesperson

Lottery winners are no strangers to challenging situations in the wake of their successes. Last week’s record-breaking lottery winner, Mavis Wanczyk, has had police protection since her £585m win. Police in her home town reported more than half a dozen reports of people knocking on doors to see if she lived there. Meanwhile, in 2016, a lottery winner in Georgia, USA, was murdered by masked men hoping to get their hands on the winnings.

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