The Vermont Lottery ended its budget year with $1 million in unclaimed prizes for winning scratch-off tickets, a $400,000 jump over the amount of prize money that players failed to collect the previous year.
The extra money went to the state's Education Fund.
Why would people fail to collect their winnings?
"That is a good question," said Alan Yandow, executive director of the Vermont Lottery Commission. "People have the opportunity to scratch the instant ticket right away," he said. "If they have a win, why don't they claim it?"
He speculated some people lose the tickets, others misplace them. "We get calls each year asking if tickets are still good."
Tickets for instant games are valid for 365 days after games close, Yandow said. Games close when all the tickets are sold or when the top prizes have been won and interest is waning.
Lottery players spent $80 million to buy 28.4 million instant game tickets last year. Tickets cost $1, $2, $3, $5, $10 and $20.
The Vermont Lottery offers two kinds of games — instant tickets that players scratch to see if they won prizes, and tickets sold from terminals, such as Megabucks and Powerball, with the winning numbers drawn several times a week.
The $1 million in unclaimed prize money came only from the instant games. Unclaimed prizes from Megabucks and Powerball must, by law, be returned to players.
With instant tickets, there's no record of which tickets are sold at various outlets, he said. "We don't know where those big wins take place," Yandow said. "We don't know what pack of tickets they are in, and we don't want to know."
Tickets purchased through terminals can be traced back to the stores where they were sold. That allows lottery officials to publicize when winning tickets haven't been exchanged for prizes.
"We did that a month or so ago," Yandow said. Lottery officials publicized that a significant unclaimed prize had been sold from a Swanton store. Yandow said, "A fellow found a $10,000 winning ticket in his pocket."