Check your ticket: Millions of Washington Lotto dollars go unclaimed

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The Washington State Lottery says unclaimed tickets total over $5 million every year. The money goes back to players for special prizes and a state fund for economic development. (Image courtesy WA State Lottery) | Zoom
You could have thousands of dollars sitting in a drawer somewhere, but it's about to be worth nothing more than the paper it's printed on. Unclaimed lottery tickets are void after 180 days and a $10,000 Match 4 ticket sold in Pierce County will expire on Oct. 8.

If the prize goes unclaimed, it wouldn't be the first. The Washington State Lottery says on average over $5 million dollars in prizes go uncollected each year.

"Sometimes it's people who bought a scratch ticket flying out of Sea-Tac and they forget all about it," says Lottery spokesman Arlen Harris.

According to Harris, if it's a really big prize like Lotto or Mega Millions, the Lottery will put on a big press push. Harris insists the agency wants winners to collect their prizes, but he says "people just don't seem to get excited about $10,000 like they do for say $250,000."

So what happens to the money? It goes back to the people, sort of.

Two-thirds of the money is returned to lottery players through extra games like second chance drawings and other promotions. Harris says recently, lottery participants had a chance to win tickets to Puyallup Fair concerts and tickets to the Seahawks.

The other one-third goes to a special fund called the Economic Strategic Reserve. The money, controlled by the governor, goes to grants for things like small business expansion.

The unclaimed funds also pay for occasional contest shortfalls, such as a recent Daily Game where the winning numbers 7-7-7 were worth about $140,000 in prizes, but only sold about $40,000 in tickets.

With the state in such a big budget mess, there really isn't a whole lot of extra money left these days. That's because the Legislature diverted $10 million over the next two years to the general fund.

You can check the Washington State Lottery website for unclaimed tickets and when they expire.

Then check your drawers; you just might have an extra $10,000 in there somewhere.


Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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