AUSTIN (KXAN) - Mike Jarvis recalled the excitement he shared with his daughter as they scratched off a winning lottery ticket given as a Christmas present.
The rush of winning faded and Jarvis set the ticket in the console of his car, where it sat for about 10 months. Finally, he decided to collect his winnings but was told he was too late. The ticket was void after six months of the closing of the game under the rules of the Texas Lottery Commission.
"I suppose it's reasonable if you know when the closing of the game was," said Jarvis, who calls himself only a casual lottery player.
But Jarvis' story is hardly unique. State documents show that an average of about $50 million a year over the past several years goes unclaimed by countless lottery players across Texas. And under state law, most of those dollars go straight into the state's general revenue fund for lawmakers to spend as they please.
Iris McBrayer, who recently picked up her weekly lottery tickets at a convenience store on Airport Boulevard, found the numbers astounding.
"Why would they buy a ticket and not check if they win?" said McBrayer, who always checks to see if her tickets are winners. "That's unbelievable."
But believe it. Every year, thousands of Texas lottery players simply forget to see if their precious game tickets are worth anything.
And lotto players aren't the only ones who lose out. Lottery retailers receive 5 percent commission on all sales. But they can receive up to $1 million for selling certain top prize-winning tickets
So how much money actually goes unclaimed? We found out in the first three months of this year alone, the Texas Lottery Commission was holding $10,038,049 to be exact. And counting.
We asked about prior years:
- 2012: $52.3 million went unclaimed.
- 2011; $53.7 million
- 2010: $86.8 million would never reach the hands of devoted lotto players who simply forgot to follow up.
Amir Ali runs the ‘Zip ‘N' store on Shoal Creek Boulevard, south of West Anderson Lane. For the last few years, the Lottery Commission said he sells the most lottery tickets in all of Austin. He's the ninth most profitable lottery retailer in Texas.
"We have good customers," he said. "People come to see us because we have plenty of (scratch-off ticket) slots."
He said customers at his convenience store think they can win more prizes compared with other stores, so they keep coming in.
And Ali's luck seems to be holding. He says every month he cashes in up to $85,000 in winnings for his customers. Annually, he sells a million and a half dollars in tickets as Texans try their luck convenience store style.
Mike Jarvis' advice to the Texas lottery player?
"You got a winning ticket, go cash it in. Don't wait around like I did," he recommended. "You're not going to get your money no matter what you say to the lottery commission."
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