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That's the Ticket: Jackpot Winner Lives Life of Daily

July 24, 1986|DAVID WHARTON | Wharton is a Los Angeles free-lance writer

Eric Daily decides to take the day off from work. He can do that because he owns the company. Daily spends the morning lounging around his five-bedroom home on Westlake Island. As the sun warms to midday, he tools about the lake in "the party barge," his new red-and-white pontoon boat.

"I checked around the lake. Everybody else has blue boats. There's only one other red one," he said. "You have to be different."

Almost six months have passed since Daily hit the $6.3-million jackpot in the California Lottery. The 24-year-old ex-produce clerk is gradually learning to live the life of a wealthy man.

"It's nice to know that, if I want to do something outrageous, I can do it," he said. "But nothing's really changed. I still like McDonald's. The guys still come over once a week for poker."

Except that now they can play in Daily's stone-tiled courtyard with its lion's head fountain, and can sneak away from the table to mix a drink at the indoor-outdoor bar.

Hometown Boy

Daily could have bought a home in a more established, moneyed community, perhaps Beverly Hills or Newport Beach. But the Thousand Oaks native insists he's still a hometown boy.

Relaxing on a couch beside the fireplace in an airy, open-beamed living room, Daily says this is the house of his dreams: lakeside, with a willow tree in the backyard, a private dock and ducks floating past on the mirrored-green water. Copies of Fortune magazine and travel brochures lay scattered across the coffee table.

"I really don't have a lot of worries," he said. "I just take it as it comes."

As a result of one lucky spin of the prize wheel, it comes in the form of a $252,600 check each year for the next 20 years. Daily used a $10 Christmas bonus from Vons to buy the ticket that qualified him to spin. He had been on strike from the supermarket for five weeks and was scraping to get by.

After becoming a millionaire, Daily promptly became a company, Eric Daily & Associates. He has been busy--busy spending money. Besides the $290,000 Westlake Island home, he has purchased two houses in Camarillo and condominiums in Thousand Oaks and Bear Valley Springs, in Kern County. He is renting out these properties through his father, Don, who is a real estate agent.

'What's Your Occupation'

Coming up with the money to buy the homes wasn't too difficult, Daily said. There were plenty of banks willing to deal with him. He has filled out a lot of loan applications lately.

"They always ask what's your occupation," Daily said. "A couple of times I put 'retired.' Under 'Other Sources of Income' I put 'California State Lottery.' "

Daily has also started his own company, All-American Auto Leasing in Newbury Park.

"We lease only American cars," he explained. "The whole concept is this rejuvenated patriotism, the interest in American products."

He knows virtually nothing about car leasing, but has hired a veteran of the business to run the company. Daily shows up at work in a three-piece suit.

"I'm enthusiastic. People tell me I don't have to work, but after a while you get a little bored," he said. "When I worked at Vons, I'd wear a white shirt and a tie and, by the time I got home, I would be covered with zucchini. I always wanted to put on a suit and work in an office."

Changes in His Life

Not that Daily jumped right into the business world after his Big Spin. He spent a few months hanging around, spending time with friends and family. He bought a 1948 Dodge and a diamond ring. He was engaged for a while, but that ended short of marriage. He gained 30 pounds.

"I was eating every night at restaurants," he said.

But then Daily got busy with the car-leasing company and a strict diet. He bikes regularly now and has lost 18 pounds in three weeks. He will take a break next week, though, when he leaves for a 10-day trip to Hawaii.

Other than the car and the ring and a few business suits, Daily has kept his personal purchases to a minimum. But the other day he did spend a few dollars on lottery tickets.

He had two $5-winners and two $2-winners.

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