$25M unclaimed in Ohio Lottery winnings this year
The odds are stacked against Ohio lottery players from winning prize money. But some players fail to cash in even when they do get lucky.
Since the summer of 2008, more than $130 million in lottery winnings have gone unclaimed in the state, because players either misplaced their tickets or failed to properly check and redeem them, according to state data and officials.
Lottery players should keep their tickets in a safe place and make a habit of checking them online or at their local retailers to avoid letting a possible payday go to waste, officials said.
“We try to put in safeguards so that customers can conveniently check their tickets,” said Marie Kilbane, spokeswoman for the Ohio Lottery. “Our ticket checkers, which are available at all of our retailers, will let you know if you’ve won and how much you’ve won.”
In fiscal year 2013, players won $1.7 billion in prize money from the Ohio Lottery’s online games and scratch-off instant tickets, according to agency data.
In the last five fiscal years, players in the state have won $7.9 billion.
But last year, about $25.2 million of winnings were not claimed. In the last five years, players have failed to collect $132.6 million in money they won.
In March, a $1 million winning Powerball ticket was sold at a Speedway in New Carlisle. The ticket, which was for the March 23 drawing, matched all five numbers.
But the owner of the ticket did not claim the prize money within 180 days of the draw date, and the ticket expired in mid-September.
In November, a $16 million winning Powerball ticket in Florida expired because no one redeemed it before it expired.
A lucky chance to win
Most lottery prizes are relatively small, which means that most winning tickets that are never claimed are for fairly small prizes, said Kilbane, with the Ohio Lottery.
But occasionally winning tickets worth millions of dollars are never claimed, and it is impossible to know why the winners never came forward, she said.
Lottery tickets are typically small pieces of paper that can get misplaced or mixed in with other receipts or bills and accidentally tossed out, Kilbane said.
Lottery players have discovered winning tickets worth big sums in their cars, wallets, purses, pockets, trash cans or hidden in the couch cushions.
In September, Illinois resident Giuseppe Anelli checked an Illinois lottery ticket he found in his glove compartment and learned he won $1 million. Earlier this year, a Delaware man found a ticket worth $102,000 while cleaning out his car.
Some players also may win prize money but fail to realize it.
Draw games are straightforward and involve players checking their tickets’ numbers against those that are drawn, officials said.
But instant ticket and extended play games can be a little more complicated and can involve matching a greater number of symbols, letters and numbers.
“With those, you maybe want to take just a little bit more care,” Kilbane said.
‘I check my numbers daily’
There are nine ways to win the Mega Millions game, and just because a player did not win the jackpot does not mean they did not win a smaller prize, officials said.
Players have 180 days from the draw date of the Ohio Lottery’s draw games and 180 days from the closing date for its instant games to collect their winnings. Prizes that are unclaimed after those deadlines expire are sent to the Lottery Profits Education Fund in support of public school operations, officials said.
Players can check their tickets at the counters of lottery retailers or they can use the retailers’ self-serve ticket checkers. Players can ask for a receipt from clerks at lottery retailers to confirm the status of their tickets.
In the last year, the Ohio Lottery also introduced an iPhone and Android mobile app that allows players to check their tickets. Players can also go online at www.ohiolottery.com to check winning numbers for any draw games, and they can also call the Ohio Lottery at 1-800-686-4208 to check tickets.
Tony Johnson, 37, of Dayton, plays the lottery everyday, and he says he has never misplaced a ticket or missed out on prize money because he has a routine and he sticks to it.
He said he watches TV each night to learn the winning numbers, and he also scans his tickets the next day if he misses the nightly drawing.
“I need the money and I check my numbers daily,” he said. “I know the numbers I play.”
Lisha Borum of Dayton said she plays a variety of lottery games, and some are more difficult than others to determine whether a ticket is a winner.
“For me, with the crossword (scratch) tickets, it is easy to miss a win, so I always check my ticket when in doubt,” she said.
In the Bonus Cashword game, players scratch off letters in a crossword-like puzzle to determine if they have formed enough complete words to win a prize.
Borum said she secures her tickets in her purse, and she makes sure to double-check lottery tickets if she is unsure whether or not she won.
“I don’t understand how people lose tickets, because it’s potentially money,” she said. “I don’t understand why you wouldn’t keep it somewhere safe.”
©2013 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)
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