Lottery anticipates return to normal claims operations "later this year"
By Kate Northrop
Lottery players are continuing to win big in California but are having to wait twice the amount of time it normally takes to receive their check, with some waiting more than three months.
Since late June, lottery prize payouts have slowed to a crawl in California as the Lottery adjusts its operations during the ongoing pandemic.
Normally, the processing time for claims is four to six weeks, but high numbers of winning ticket claims and temporary adjustments to procedures during the pandemic have lengthened this waiting period to as long as 10 to 16 weeks.
"Customer Service Center wait times are also longer than usual due to the volume of claim inquiries," the California Lottery said in an update late June. "Lottery staff is working overtime to decrease processing time."
One player said that she has been waiting over three months for her $30,000 prize payout after hitting the jackpot twice in a week on two different scratch-off tickets — $20,000 on an "Ultimate Millions" ticket in April and then $10,000 on a "Money Mania" ticket a week later.
"I started crying," Linda Armstrong of Modesto told CBS13. "My gosh, nothing like that ever happens to me."
The odds of that happening to any player are very slim — about 1 in 8 million — but the increased wait times for payouts have been keeping Armstrong's money at bay.
Armstrong wanted to use that money as quickly as possible and eagerly awaited her check for a very good reason.
"I just had a great-grandson in the end of May," she said in an interview. "When I get my money, I'm going to go up and see my great-grandson."
More than three months had passed, and she still did not have her winnings.
"I mean, it's your money once you win it, right?" Armstrong wondered.
There is some time that players should expect to wait before receiving their prize if it is valued above $600 – about four to six weeks. The Lottery performs checks to ensure that the win is legitimate and then investigates whether the winner owes any money in the form of back taxes or child support.
The Lottery increased the wait to 10 to 16 weeks to accommodate "temporary changes to Lottery operations during the pandemic." Armstrong was then told that it would be 18 weeks.
"I'd like to get some answers for why they think they're allowed to do this," Armstrong stated.
After 15 weeks of waiting, she received the checks for her winnings in the mail.
"I think it's ridiculous you have to sit and wait like you're a beggar," she concluded.
The Lottery advised that the fastest way to claim prizes over $600 and over is by making an appointment in advance or by dropping off their claim at a drop box at one of nine Lottery District Offices. They also recommended that prospective winners double-check that they complete the claim form correctly to ensure that wait times are not needlessly delayed. According to the Lottery, the number one reason for delays on verified claims is a missing signature.
"The California Lottery team is working diligently to return claim processing times back to normal," the Lottery said in a statement. "Currently, processing times are shortening and anticipate them to be back to normal later this year. We thank players for their patience and understanding."