Where in the world is that $1m scratch ticket?
By DAN TUOHY
New Hampshire Union Leader
No one has yet to claim a $1 million prize in a popular state lottery scratch ticket game that is winding down this spring.
"We don't know whether that million dollar ticket has been sold, and simply not claimed, or whether it's still out there," New Hampshire Lottery Director Rick Wisler said. "Is it like Willy Wonka's golden ticket? To some degree."
In "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," the fictional Wonka packaged a few lucky tickets in his candy bars. Charlie won one and went on to inherit the factory, Oompa Loompas and all.
In New Hampshire Millionaire's Club, two instant tickets have a top prize of $1 million.
George Muncy of Amherst claimed the first jackpot Oct. 9, 2007. Rather than $50,000 a year for 20 years, he chose a one-time cash value option of $650,000. After taxes, Muncy walked away with $487,500, according to the Lottery.
Besides the unclaimed second $1 million ticket, the Millionaire's Club will add a third member. A drawing of selected non-winning tickets, which are designated by a star, is to be announced later this year.
"There's been quite a lot of excitement," Wisler said. "We get five to 10 phone calls a day, 'When's the drawing? When's the drawing?'"
While the Lottery Commission wants to keep the game open as long as possible, hoping the winner will soon show, it acknowledges a sense of urgency to wrap up in order to schedule the drawing.
If another couple of weeks go by without the missing $1 million ticket winner showing up, the Lottery will announce a closing date for the game and start to remove the game tickets from stores.
Removal of leftover tickets from an estimated 1,200 retailers statewide could take weeks.
The New Hampshire Lottery has about 50 scratch ticket games. New Hampshire Millionaire's Club, the best selling $10 game Wisler manages, went on sale March 16, 2007.
The Lottery anticipates selling out over the next couple of months, at which time it would hold the second-chance drawing, and after which time it would start a new version of the game.
The Lottery sells about $200,000 of the New Hampshire Millionaire's Club tickets a week, according to Wisler.
People have already purchased 85 percent of about 2.1 million tickets ordered, so about 300,000 tickets remain, he said.
The Lottery does not know where the prized $1 million ticket is. When tickets are printed, a computer program randomly places prizes in the game, and the location of prizes in ticket books are locked away at Scientific Games, the ticket vendor, which is based in Atlanta, Ga.
Wisler said the ticket may have been tucked away by a purchaser, forgotten about, or lost. A player may also have mistaken the ticket as a loser, and thrown it away.
By state law, unclaimed prizes for instant games expire one year after the game is officially closed.
If every second-chance ticket is purchased and every one mailed back to the New Hampshire Lottery for the drawing, Wisler could expect to see 220,000 tickets in the large drum used for such drawings.
The last time the New Hampshire Lottery conducted a drawing for the game, without much publicity, people descended on the lottery offices to witness the new "millionaire."
"We must have had about 200 people here," Wisler said.
Besides the three prizes of $1 million, two of which are instant wins, New Hampshire Millionaire's Club players can win thousands of prizes from $50 to $10,000.
© 1997-2009 Union Leader Corporation