Commission votes in the same meeting to deny $500 payout to another player
By Kate Northrop
Within the same meeting, the Hoosier Lottery Commission voted to approve a $50,000 prize claim to a winner whose ticket was ripped up and to deny a $500 prize to another scratch-off winner who posted their winning ticket online.
The Hoosier Lottery Commission was faced with two rather interesting cases regarding the validity of two very different prize claims and ultimately voted to approve one and deny the other.
In a meeting that took place in Indianapolis on Tuesday, Lottery commissioners discussed Paul Marshall and his winning $50,000 Powerball ticket. The catch was that he stepped forward to claim the prize, but his ticket was in pieces.
Marshall visited the retailer he bought the ticket at to validate it, however retailers cannot pay out tickets that win more than $600. Therefore, when they checked his ticket, the lottery terminal printed out a slip with written instructions to visit a prize payment office.
The retailer staff ripped up the winning ticket out of habit, Lottery officials said in the meeting.
Marshall did make his way to a claim center and presented Lottery officials with the written instructions, but the Lottery couldn't pay out a prize without seeing the ticket.
Thankfully for him, all five commissioners unanimously voted to approve the payout.
"This was a fortunate event, where we were able to... reconstruct what happened," Lotter Director of Legal Affairs and Compliance Chuck Taylor said at the meeting.
Lottery staff "immediately" visited the retailer in question and Lottery security was "on it," he said. Video surveillance footage confirmed Marshall's story.
While Marshall was doubly lucky, the same cannot be said for another lottery winner, whose case was unanimously denied in the same meeting.
Drena Harris won $500 on a scratch-off ticket and posted a photo of the ticket to her Facebook account. While it might have felt good to publicly celebrate online, the feeling didn't last long. One of her followers had taken the image and conned a retailer into cashing out the prize before she could bring it in to make the claim herself.
The Lottery declined to pay out the prize twice, Taylor said. Harris tried to appeal the decision to an administrative law judge, but the judge ruled in favor of the Lottery. Plus, the retailer that had paid out the prize had gone out of business by the time Harris brought her case into light.
"Ordinarily, if she would have acted quickly and came in soon after, we could have possibly [obtained evidence], but the retailer where it was cashed... had not been a retailer for two months," Taylor explained.
In other words, there was no way to review video surveillance footage and no way to interview employees.
"It's not a decision that we enjoy, but... we can't pay something twice," Taylor continued.
Technically, the retailer who paid out the prize was at fault too — lottery retailers are prohibited from paying out prizes without being presented a physical winning ticket.
Since the business was closed, there was nothing the Lottery could do, but had it been open, the Lottery "probably" could have gotten the money back and paid Harris her prize.
Lottery winners should not post photos of their winning tickets online on any social media platforms to avoid being scammed. Instead, players should put tickets in a safe place and to treat them as you would checks, cash, and other items of high value.