BOISE -- With the recent $650 million Mega Millions jackpot a lot of us started dreaming about what we'd do with all that money. But every year in Idaho some people just need to wake up to realize that they are winners. For whatever reason, they never claim their prizes. That unclaimed money really adds up.
"Over the last two years we've had about $6 million go unclaimed from lottery tickets," said Idaho Lottery spokesman David Workman. That total comes from scratch tickets and all the different games where the balls drop.
In fiscal year 2010 nearly $3.7 million worth of prizes went unclaimed. In 2011 the total was almost $2.3 million.
Those unclaimed prizes range from $1 all the way up to $1 million.
A million dollar ticket sold in Eastern Idaho two years ago went unclaimed. "You know it's kind of a mystery to us," said Workman. "We never really heard any good news or anything about that ticket."
It's also a mystery why so many tickets go unclaimed. Maybe a lot of them get lost or laundered. Workman also thinks some people just may not understand the rules.
"Sometimes it's a little bit of player error," said Workman. "A lot of times though we would suspect that it's probably just people who haven't taken the opportunity to take that ticket to the retailer and have them check it to see if it's a winner."
You have 180 days to claim your prize. If you miss the deadline you lose, but public school kids across the state win. "Exactly. It's public education all the way around," said Workman. "That money ends up going to benefit Idaho public schools and the permanent building fund."
So, it's obvious. Millions in unclaimed prizes is a huge issue in Idaho.
For a solution we called in lottery expert Anna Pearl Rowell of Caldwell. We first met Anna Pearl in 2007 when she won her 5th Idaho Lottery prize. It was $110,000. Over the years she has also won a full-size Pac-Man video game machine, a pick-up truck, $1,500 and $15,000.
She knows what she's talking about. So here's her sage advice, her straightforward tip, her Anna Pearl "pearl of wisdom" to make sure you know whether your ticket is a winner or loser.
"Keep track of it. Don't run it through the washing machine, and do check your tickets," said lottery expert Anna Pearl Rowell.
Check your tickets... simply brilliant and brilliantly simple. And the best way to check them is to take them to a store that sells lottery tickets.
Another really easy way to check your lottery tickets is with the KTVB - ID Lotto app for your smart phone. It's Free! Just search KTVB in your app store.