A disabled teacher won £34k in the lottery but had his benefits cut after the government labeled him a professional gambler.
Craig Hill, 61, said Australian authorities had cut his biweekly disability pension days after his miracle win.
The retired teacher has cut his pension from £470 to £187 every two weeks because he was considered a “professional gambler”.
Hill suffered serious psychological damage when inmates at Townsville Prison held him hostage in 2019.
He was teaching hardened criminals to read and write when a riot broke out and nine of his students threatened to kill him with their pens.
“Normally they behave quite well, but one of the guards thought it would be funny to tell them I was a former prison guard and that I was spying on them,” he told the Daily Mail Australia.
“That had quite the opposite effect. These guys are serving life sentences for murder for a reason, they are not super smart.”
Mr Hill was not allowed to leave and said that “if we have to kill anyone because you are an ex-prison officer, you will be the first”.
They then began swinging their pens like knives and threatening to stab him to death for the hour he was trapped in class.
“A pen can do a lot of damage if you stick it in the carotid artery. I knew, okay, this is serious, it scared me to death,” he said.
The two prison guards standing outside the room had no idea what was going on, so Mr. Hill had to draw on his decades of training to survive.
He talked his way out of death by telling the inmates that even if they got life sentences for murder and thought they had nothing to lose, they would be risking their own lives too.
“The unwritten rule is that if you harm a hostage, you won’t get out alive,” said the cursed lottery winner.
“Although I was afraid, I could not show fear, if you show fear, they have power over you.”
After an hour, the inmates gave up and returned to their cells, leaving Mr. Hill unharmed.
The incident exacerbated Mr. Hill’s PTSD and schizophrenia and prevented him from teaching because he was unable to leave the house.
“After a few weeks I couldn’t concentrate, I have a lot of stress and anxiety, I get panic attacks, especially when I leave the house,” he said.
“Once a month or so I have a good day and I can go out, maybe to the local pub for trivia, but after a few hours I have a panic attack and have to go home.
“I have nightmares about prison, I wake up in a cold sweat.”
Mr Hill received disability benefits, which expired after two years, and is now completely dependent on his and his wife’s pensions.
So when he won £34k he thought he had finally taken a break, only for the Australian authorities to cut his payments immediately.
When he asked them for a review, they reduced his wife’s health care allowance by the same amount.
“I did the right thing and contacted Centrelink and they told me that because it was paid monthly it counted as gambling income,” he said.
“So I asked if I could deduct all my gambling losses from the past 20 years and they said no, you don’t become a professional gambler until the day you win.
“Had I won $600,000 (£342k) on the Powerball it wouldn’t affect my pension, but because it’s paid monthly I’m a professional gambler, it’s ridiculous.”
He was then told he could take the case to the appellate courts, but ran the risk of having his pension from the past seven years checked.
“There’s a culture in some of these departments where they see customers as the enemy, but if they didn’t have customers, they wouldn’t have jobs,” he said.
Mr Hill said he only plays the lotto when the jackpot is high and has bought Set For Life tickets – the draw he won – since 2015.
“I don’t bet on the horses or go to the casino, I might be a little annoyed by the poker machines every now and then,” he said.
He has been in constant contact with various Australian government departments for help, but has been turned down each time.
“Everyone has the capacity to solve the problem, but nobody wants that,” he said.
The Ministry of Social Affairs said few income amounts were excluded from social calculations.
It states: “Lottery winnings received periodically, e.g. on a monthly basis for an indefinite period of time, are assessed as income for the period to which they relate.
“This is consistent with the principle of targeting aid to those who need it most. Periodically winning a lottery is a continuous source of income that can be used for a person’s own support.”
They said if Mr Hill had accepted the payment in one go, rather than £2,800 payments over 12 months, it would not have been assessed as income.
They added that Mr Hill’s wife’s informal care allowance was reduced because the retirement income tests count the gross income of both partners.