October 31, 2003

Check Those Lottery Tickets

Those self-serve scanning machines found at the side of many lottery counters are almost perfect, but......

It's worth checking

Mark Patrick photo

B.C. Lottery Corporation spokesperson Alison Lester demonstrates a ticket checking machine.

By Martin van den Hemel
Staff Reporter

There are only two things worse than not winning the lottery: failing to cash in a winning ticket and being shortchanged when you think you've won more.

Over the last couple of years, more than 350 people have complained to the B.C. Lottery Corporation about the validation of their lottery tickets, many saying that the retailers did not show them the validation slip which indicates the size of the prize they've won and arguing they were not given the correct prize amount.

And then there are the people who win but fail to claim their windfall. This group numbers in the thousands across the country, most of whom are winners of smaller prizes in the $1 to $10 range, but on occasion are winners of something more sizable.
For example, as recently as October 2001, someone in B.C. who won the choice of $50,000 cash or a BMW failed to validate the ticket before the one-year claim window closed.
Denis Savidan, manager of lottery security for the B.C. Lottery Corporation, said there are steps residents can take to ensure they get what they deserve.
The first thing they should do is sign the back of each ticket they buy. This will ensure prizes, particularly larger amounts, are given out to the rightful owner and puts into motion a number of security safeguards. Without a signature, a ticket becomes a bearer document that almost anyone can cash in like a blank cheque, Savidan said.

And each time you get your ticket checked, do your due diligence and double check either with the lottery numbers printed in the newspaper or in the lottery corporation's Luck Magazine or online at www.bclc.com.

Those self-serve scanning machines found at the side of many lottery counters are almost perfect, but can make a mistake once in every three million time they read the bar code found at the bottom of each ticket.

Another way to protect yourself from being duped is to listen for that distinctive chime. If you hear it, it's a sign that there's a winner. About 18 months ago, that music indicated the purchase of certain lottery tickets, but that was changed to alert winners.
Savidan said the retailer should let prizewinners see the amount they have won on the validation slip, which aside from indicating the prize amount also contains a number that should match the 14-digit control number on the bottom of each ticket. This ensures that the tickets haven't been switched.

Thousands of lottery ticket buyers each year fail to cash in their winning tickets before the one-year claim window closes, accounting for an unclaimed national lottery prize pool that amounts to between $14 million and $22 million each year in the Lotto 6/49 and Super 7 games. (This pool becomes prize money for super-sized bonus draws held about once a year.)

Every now and then, the unclaimed prizes go beyond the small-change wins.
In October of 1994, a $1 million BC/49 prize went unclaimed. In a three-month span in 1993, two EXTRA winners, worth $500,000, also went unclaimed.

Just two years ago, an Abbotsford woman claimed her million-dollar prize less than a week before it was set to expire after a media blitz alerted local residents to the unclaimed windfall. She had left the winning ticket on the bottom of her purse.
Lotteries are big business in B.C.

In 2002/03, the Richmond-headquartered B.C. Lottery Corporation made more than $663 million in net income, and some retailers make as much as $50,000 each year from the sale of lottery tickets alone.

Nigel Anderson, director of sales for the Richmond-headquartered B.C. Lottery Corporation, said retailers earn a five per cent commission on ticket sales. A couple of dozen B.C. retailers sell up to $1 million dollars worth of tickets annually, which would earn them in the neighbourhood of $50,000.

There are currently 4,000 lottery ticket retailers in B.C. and the lottery corporation is always looking to expand, eyeing strategic locations such as the opening of new 7-Eleven or Shoppers Drug Mart stores in which to place lottery machines.

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Posted by Craig at October 31, 2003 04:37 PM