A state law is forcing the Kansas Lottery to shred an estimated 400,000 unsold scratch-off tickets — including thousands of dollars worth of jackpot winners.
Lottery director Ed Van Petten said Wednesday that the state's annual series of scratcher games that benefit programs for state veterans could be sold only from May 1 through Nov. 30 under the 2003 state law that authorized the benefit games.
"At the time there was a fear the games could get stale if they were sold year-round," he said.
The game apparently did go stale with players last year. As the November 2005 sales deadline approached, Van Petten said, an estimated 580,000 "Veterans Benefit Game" cards, from the total press run of 900,000, remained unsold.
But only about 180,000 of those cards were still secure and sealed in their original packaging. Those cards were put back on sale last week. The rest were in opened packs and were in the process of being sold. Van Petten said all those open packages — including an unknown number of winners — would be destroyed later this year for security reasons.
Van Petten said the loss of nearly half the game's cards would result in "a minuscule" change in winning odds for players. Winning cards are randomly distributed throughout the card packs. While shredding will reduce the total number of winning cards, it also will reduce the pool of cards available for sale, which will keep the odds in line.
"In theory they should all play out the same way," he said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Van Petten said, seven cards with $1,500 instant jackpot prizes were unclaimed from the game's total pool of 12 big winners. Eight $500 winners and 174 $40 winners also remained.
Updates for each lottery game's unsold winning cards are posted on the lottery's Web site.
State veterans officials want year-round sales, and Van Petten said his agency has advised lawmakers that it has no problem with such a change. He said he expected the issue to be pushed in next year's legislative session.
Two other veterans benefit games are on sale this year.
A $1 Beetle Bailey-themed card featuring the cartoon soldier with $2,000 top jackpots begins today.
A John Wayne-themed card with $10,000 top prizes launched last week.
Since 2003, the special games have raised more than $2 million.