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Lottery Commission approves $50k payout to man with torn-up winning ticket

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Lottery Commission approves $50k payout to man with torn-up winning ticket

Nov 29, 2023 | 7:00 am ET
By Leslie Bonilla Muñiz
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Lottery Commission approves $50k payout to man with ripped-up winning ticket
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The lottery expected to take in $545,762 in revenue during the first four months of the fiscal year — July through October — but has made $602,808. (Courtesty Hoosier Lottery website)

Two recent lottery winners got differing results from Tuesday’s Hoosier Lottery Commission meeting — one reaped thousands while another received nothing.

Paul Marshall had a winning $50,000 Powerball ticket.

Hoosier Lottery participating retailers can’t pay tickets of more than $600, so when Marshall took his to a retailer, a machine spat out written instructions to visit a prize payment office.

But staff where he originally bought the ticket ripped the winning ticket up out of habit, Indiana Lottery Commission officials said Tuesday.

Marshall took the written instructions in, but without the ticket, the lottery couldn’t pay him.

The commission — a multi-partisan group of five gubernatorial appointees — approved the payout at a Tuesday meeting in Indianapolis. They did so by unanimous voice vote.

“This was a fortunate event, where we were able to … reconstruct what happened,” said Chuck Taylor, the lottery’s director of legal affairs and compliance.

Lottery security was “on it,” he said, with staff at the retailer “immediately.” Video corroborated Marshall’s affidavit.

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But another winner wasn’t so lucky.

Drena Harris earned $500 off a scratch-off ticket, and posted a picture of the ticket to her Facebook account. Before she could cash in, a follower used the image to con a retailer into making the payment, according to Taylor.

The lottery declined to pay out twice. By the time Harris appealed its decision to an administrative law judge, the retailer had gone out of business. The judge agreed with the lottery.

“Ordinarily, if she would have acted quickly and came in soon after, we could have possibly (obtained evidence), but the retailer where it was cashed … had not been a retailer for two months,” Taylor said.

That meant no video to access and no clerks to interview.

“It’s not a decision that we enjoy, but … we can’t pay something twice,” Taylor added.

He said lottery policy prohibits retailers from paying out without a physical ticket, but officials couldn’t go after a closed business. If it were still open, the lottery “probably” could have gotten the money back and paid Harris.

Taylor said players should protect their tickets, much like checks or cash.

The commission approved the denial in another unanimous voice vote.

Income up, audit findings down

In other lottery news Tuesday, revenue is up over projections, according to Chief of Staff Carrie Stroud.

The lottery expected to take in $546 million in revenue during the first four months of the fiscal year — July through October — but has made $603 million.

It’s ahead on operating profit and other income sources, although it’s spent slightly more than expected on game and provider expenses.

The lottery has also paid out less than budgeted in prizes, and has spent less on general and administrative expenses.

So far, the lottery is expected to pay the state $133 million instead of $109 million. Operator IGT Indiana is also on track to earn higher incentive compensation.

The commission also heard the results of the lottery’s fiscal year 2023 internal audits, which came back with just three findings. That’s down from last year’s four.

None of the findings were high-risk, according to Stroud. Two were medium-risk and one was low-level.

Stroud said staff had already completed mitigation and changed some procedures to avoid repeat findings.

“It wasn’t many years ago we probably had 15 or more (findings), so I think we we’ve really taken the feedback from these internal audits and been able to tighten our controls and our policies and procedures,” Stroud said.

The lottery is already preparing for its next round of audits, which will focus on annuity prize payments, budgets and financial reporting, contract compliance, prize payments, purchasing compliance and retailer licensing compliance.

Correction: This story was updated to correct four dollar amounts. They are in millions.