The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

December 29, 2013

$25 million unclaimed in Ohio Lottery winnings

WASHINGTON — 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.

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.

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.

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.

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