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Your ship came in

where were you?

Millions of dollars left behind if lottery winners don't show

March 18, 2007|By A Sun Staff Writer | A Sun Staff Writer,Sun Staff Writer

Clarence Jackson Jr. suffered an even greater indignity in 1996, when he turned in his winning ticket from the Connecticut Lottery Corp. three days late - and lost $5.8 million.

Lottery officials try to locate the winners, though there is little they can actually do.

Most maintain a list of unclaimed winning numbers and the expiration dates on their Web sites. And some, like Maryland, hope publicity will bring the missing winners forward.

"We'll issue a news release a few days before the prize is to expire," Brancato says.

One might assume that lottery officials secretly like winnings to go unclaimed. But they don't, because it's not good business.

"We're happy to keep that down," Everett says. "Happy stories means more people will play."

Roogow adds: "I want people to get their rewards, that's why they are playing. ... The bottom line is, there is churn. They reinvest their winnings to some extent, and that's how any business continues to thrive."

Janice Redding handed over $1 for a Pick Three ticket at a Giant supermarket in Jessup earlier this month, swearing she'd never forget her winnings.

"What are those folks thinking?" she says of the almost-winners. "If I ever win, I'll collect my money. I don't care if it's only for $1 - that'll pay for another ticket."

But not everyone has the same resolve. And in the end, it's up to the players to become real winners.

Michigan Lottery officials say they are waiting to hear from the holders of five unclaimed tickets, each worth $250,892.

And the Maryland Lottery is still waiting to see if the winner of $250,000 will ever show up.

"It's hard to fathom that people hold large tickets and do nothing about them," Everett says.

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