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The Mystery Of The Missing Millionaire: 11 Months Later, Still No Word From Hot Lotto® Jackpot Winner

The Mystery Of The Missing Millionaire: Just One Month Remains For Hot Lotto® Jackpot To Be Claimed

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DES MOINES, Iowa - The one-month countdown has begun for a multi-million-dollar Hot Lotto® jackpot that remains unclaimed 11 months after it was won with a ticket purchased in Des Moines. The winning ticket will expire Dec. 29 if it isn't claimed by then.

With each passing day, the Iowa Lottery receives more inquiries from those who wonder if they may have made the jackpot-winning purchase nearly a year ago at a Des Moines convenience store. But so far, no one has presented the winning ticket, and lottery officials emphasize that is a requirement for claiming the prize.

"That is a message we want to stress: You must present the winning ticket to the lottery in order to claim the prize," Lottery CEO Terry Rich said Tuesday. "It is sad to see this huge prize continue to sit there without being claimed. Someone legitimately won this money and we want them to take it home. It could make a huge difference in someone's life - or several someones' lives - just in time for the holidays."

The passage of time also reveals the impact that a down economy can have, even on lottery jackpots. Although the majority of recent winners have chosen the cash option, jackpot winners can choose to receive their winnings as annuitized payments over time or a lump-sum payment. At the time the big prize was won back on Dec. 29, 2010, the estimated annuitized jackpot amount was $16.5 million. That annuitized estimate is based upon the cash on hand from the sale of tickets along with the amount in interest that would be generated over time after the lottery invested the money. While the cash value of the jackpot remains unchanged at $10.75 million, today's low interest rates mean the annuitized jackpot amount has fallen to an estimated $14.4 million.

"This has been a topsy-turvy story all the way around," Rich said. "But we're hoping that our reminders will cause someone to double-check their ticket and realize they're the big winner before the expiration date."

Rich said that the lottery does not release a ticket's date or time of sale for security reasons.

"Some information is kept as our way to double-check that the winner is legitimate," he said.

The Lottery has provided some key information that might jar a winner's memory. The Hot Lotto jackpot-winning ticket was purchased at Quik Trip, 4801 N.E. 14th St. in Des Moines. The lucky ticket matched all six numbers selected in the Hot Lotto drawing on Dec. 29, 2010, to win the grand prize. The winning numbers that night were: 3-12-16-26-33 and Hot Ball 11.

Hot Lotto tickets in Iowa expire a year from the date of the drawing in which a prize is won, so Rich emphasized there's still time for the jackpot to be claimed. The prize will expire at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011, if it isn't claimed by then. (The lottery's Validations Office closes at 4 p.m. and the equipment needed to process winning tickets is shut down at that time.)

To help draw attention to the unclaimed jackpot and its approaching deadline, the lottery has installed a countdown clock at its headquarters office in Des Moines and programmed a countdown clock that people can track on its website at www.ialottery.com.

In addition to fielding inquiries that have come in via email, telephone and in-person visits from curious members of the public, Iowa Lottery security investigators have worked to possibly identify the jackpot winner by tracking similar ticket purchase patterns. So far, none of the people the lottery has contacted has turned out to be the big winner.

Just a handful of U.S. lottery prizes that were larger have ever gone unclaimed. The largest recent U.S. lottery prize that expired without being claimed was a $68 million Mega Millions® ticket purchased in Brooklyn, N.Y., for a December 2002 drawing.

If the Hot Lotto prize expires without being claimed, the money from the jackpot will go back to the 15 lotteries that offer Hot Lotto in proportion to the percentage of sales that came from each state. For example, if Iowa contributed 20 percent of the sales for that particular jackpot, Iowa would get 20 percent of the money back. How the money would be used depends upon the specific laws and rules in each state. In Iowa, the money from unclaimed prizes goes into the lottery's prize pools for future games.

"Iowa would get back about $1.3 million if this prize were to go unclaimed," Rich said. "We've talked about having a special promotion in the spring to give the money away, with a theme of 'everyone deserves a second chance.' But right now, we're concentrating on trying to find this big winner or group of winners."

The Hot Lotto game began in April 2002, offering Powerball-style play but with easier odds. Hot Lotto players choose five numbers from a pool of 39 and another number, called the Hot Ball, from a pool of 19. Iowa Lottery players have won eight jackpots in the game so far.

The Hot Lotto jackpot starts at $1 million and grows until someone wins it. Tickets in the game cost $1. Hot Lotto drawings are held at about 9:40 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays, just before the Powerball drawings. Hot Lotto tickets are sold in Iowa, 13 other states and the District of Columbia.