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Lottery winner’s luck about to run out

BOISE – Someone won $200,000 in the Idaho lottery in January but still hasn’t claimed the prize – and if no one comes forward in the next 3 ½ weeks, it’ll be the third $200,000 Idaho lottery prize in three years to go unclaimed.

State officials aren’t complaining too hard. If the winnings are unclaimed, they’re divided between Idaho’s public schools and a fund for state buildings. The schools and the building fund, which also receives the lottery’s profits after expenses and prizes are paid, already have collected millions in extra revenue over the years due to winners who let their prizes lapse.

“Most players are pretty diligent with paying attention to that,” said Jeff Anderson, director of the Idaho Lottery.

Anderson said overall, about 2 percent of Idaho’s state lottery winnings go unclaimed, though most are much smaller prizes – often just a few dollars. That’s about average, according to the North American State and Provincial Lottery Association.

But few really big prizes go unclaimed. Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery, said just one Powerball jackpot – worth more than $50 million – has gone unclaimed. That was in 2002, on a ticket sold in Indiana.

Washington’s state lottery had a $1.2 million Lotto jackpot go unclaimed in 2005, and in the past four years, seven prizes of $200,000 or more went unclaimed. That money gets divided, with two-thirds going to prizes for new games and one-third to a state economic development account designed to lure new jobs or retain existing ones.

In Idaho, the currently unclaimed prize is for someone who bought a “Match 5” ticket in Malad, Idaho, near the Utah border, for the Jan. 26 Powerball draw. The player didn’t match the “Powerball” number but matched all five of the other numbers in the drawing to win $200,000.

Both states give winners six months to claim prizes. The Idaho winner has until July 23.

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