The first night North Carolina residents could take part in the multistate Powerball lottery game, someone hit a $200,000 winner.
More than 11 weeks later, no one has claimed the prize.
It's a little-known fact that lottery games across the country keep millions of dollars in winnings are never claimed. The industry norm is that about 1 percent to 2 percent of prizes somehow fall through the cracks.
North Carolina lottery officials expect almost $9 million in lottery winnings will go unclaimed between last month and June.
That winning ticket from North Carolina's first Powerball was sold at the Wilco gas station in Aberdeen, about 80 miles south of Raleigh, near the golf resorts of the state's Sandhills region, lottery officials said.
The buyer has until late November — 180 days after the drawing — to claim the prize.
"You know, right before that drawing, there were 13 or 14 golfers who came in here, and they all bought five or 10 tickets each," clerk Amanda Harris said. "They weren't from around here. So who knows where it is?"
It's certainly not the biggest unclaimed prize in the game. In one famous Powerball case, a winning ticket worth $30.7 million, sold in Indiana in 2002, was never cashed in.
Why does it happen? Players toss winning tickets in the trash by accident. They misread them, lose them, forget about them. Sometimes, deadlines pass before ticket-holders act.
North Carolina's lottery is so new that no deadlines have yet passed for collecting winnings, so no money is considered unclaimed — yet.
A second $200,000 Powerball ticket sold in North Carolina also remains unclaimed. It was from the Aug. 2 drawing and was purchased at a gas station in Brevard.
Lottery officials heard by telephone from a woman who said she was the winner and would need a few weeks before coming to Raleigh to claim the money. All winners of $100,000 or more must collect the prize at lottery headquarters.
Most of the millions in unclaimed money will be from scratch-off tickets. Players must collect on instant tickets within 90 days of the announced end of a game.
Half of the unclaimed prize money will go to education programs. The other half will be plowed back into prizes for future games.
"I've seen' em come in on the very last day," said lottery director Tom Shaheen, who has worked for lotteries in four other states. "People leave them in drawers or glove boxes or wherever. When it gets down to the end, people will go and check those tickets, you can be sure about that."