Some lottery winners have no luck.
Before anyone can claim a big prize, state law requires lottery officials to first check on whether the winner owes the government any money.
Since the first ticket went on sale in North Carolina in March 2006, the lottery has collected $1.3 million in back taxes, delinquent child support, overdue student loans and other debts. For some winners, the hit is a few hundred dollars out of thousands. For others, the debt wipes out their whole prize.
The lottery has collected more than $274,000 from 204 lottery winners for child support, according to the state lottery's figures. Student debt and medical bills to state and local hospitals are particularly prevalent among lottery winners.
It's not uncommon for lottery winners to say they plan to use their winnings — voluntarily — to pay off debts, said Alice Garland, a spokeswoman for the state lottery. Paying off the mortgage is the most common answer winners give when asked what they plan to do with the money.
Garland said that even some of those whose winnings were garnisheed were relieved.
One winner, who hit a $100,000 prize on a scratch-off ticket, was glad his children were going to get the child support money they were owed, she said. Another player's winnings went to pay off her student debt.
"She was one happy camper when she walked out of here," Garland said.
Not all lottery players, of course, are happy to have their winnings seized.
One guy, Garland said, won a $35,000 prize. After taxes and his debt was taken out, the guy walked out of the claims office with nothing. As he left he had one question. He wondered aloud, she said, which of his former wives got the money.