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Budget boost for Idaho: Unclaimed $1M prize

Tue., Feb. 15, 2011, 11:48 a.m.

BOISE - Idaho Lottery revenues are forecast to be down slightly this year because of fewer big, attention-grabbing jackpots - but the lottery’s still in line to meet its profit projections, largely because one winner left a $1 million Powerball prize unclaimed.

“When that ticket went unclaimed, it goes into the unclaimed prize fund,” Lottery Director Jeff Anderson told legislative budget writers this morning. “It was somewhat of an unusual event, that someone would win a million dollars and not claim their ticket, but it is what happened this year.”

The result: A better budget picture for the lottery, the bulk of whose proceeds are divided evenly between schools and the state’s permanent building fund. A portion also goes to the school bond levy equalization fund.

Anderson said Idaho Lottery revenues are projected to be down by 2 percent this year, because to date in fiscal year 2011, only 6 percent of advertised Powerball jackpots have exceeded $100 million. In the last three years, 26 percent have been higher than that mark, which drives sales.

“Consequently our net margin will decrease slightly, because draw games are our highest-margin products,” Anderson said. “Nonetheless, we do forecast being able to deliver the $37 million in dividends promised for fiscal year 2011, due to the unclaimed prize fund and our rigorous management of expenses.”

The winning ticket was sold at Huskey’s in Irwin, near the Idaho-Wyoming border, for the March 6, 2010 Powerball draw. The Idaho Lottery issued multiple press releases to try to draw attention to the win, including repeated follow-ups in the area and even contacts with Wyoming news media. There was a public ceremony to present a $25,000 check to the store that sold the ticket, along with reminders that the winner had 180 days to come forward. He or she never did; the ticket expired on Sept. 2, 2010.

“It got a fair amount of attention,” said lottery spokesman David Workman. “But what happened to it, where it ended up, is really very much a mystery. I don’t think we actually received any phone calls, not even one, not even somebody playing a prank.”

It’s the biggest prize the Idaho Lottery has ever had go unclaimed.

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