Lottery Payout Questions

Tuesday, June 27th 2006, 11:10 am

By: News On 6

Oklahoma retailers have sold winning lottery tickets totaling nearly $110-million, but ten winners have yet to claim more than $102-million in prizes.

News on 6 anchor Tami Marler explains why they might be waiting to come forward.

You're 33 times more likely to be killed by a bolt of lightening than win a Powerball jackpot, but just five months into Oklahoma's participation in the 31-state lottery, a Broken Arrow Quik Trip sold a winning ticket worth $101.8-million.

It's not Oklahoma's only unclaimed prize. Whoever purchased a ticket at Mr. Bass in Skiatook in February, still hasn't picked up their $200,000 winnings. They have 180-days from the purchase date, which gives them less than two months.

There are several other locations where winning tickets have been sold, but the prizes have yet to be claimed. Someone purchased a winning ticket at a south Tulsa Quik Trip worth $400,000. That drawing was on April 1st.

So why aren't people coming forward? Financial analysts say there may be good reason to wait the full 180 days.

"Maybe it would make sense to grow a beard, change my hair color, put my house up for sale in the meantime." Brandt and Beau Brock joke that lottery winners may first want to go into hiding, then consult with a financial advisor. "Probably a lot of people, among other reasons, are taking the cash payment because they have some immediate things they want to do with it."

Taking cash up-front on $101.8-million jackpot actually means more like $24-million in your pocket. A stream of 30-annual payments would total more than $62-million after taxes, a risk-free return of more than 6.5 percent.

"It would be difficult to replicate that in a guaranteed setting just to invest it on your own." Out of nearly 50 winners in Powerball's history, only two have chosen the annuity. "The stock market tends to do 10-to-12 percent a year, so if you were to invest in equities and fairly aggressive. It would be substantially more than what you would earn with the regular annual payout that's at the 6.71 percent."

Lottery officials say they're required to identify winners, so the public knows exactly where the money goes. It's not unusual for winners to "wait" to come forward. If the prizes aren't claimed, the first half-million goes to the state Department of Mental Health, to help treat compulsive gambling. The rest goes back into the overall pool, for future prizes or special promotions.

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