LANSING, MI — While casinos, theaters, gyms and other places of public entertainment have been closed since March due to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, the state-operate lottery has been allowed to continue selling tickets and operating nightly drawings.
However, players who won prizes of $50,001 or more have been unable to claim their prizes, despite assurances from the lottery that big winners would be able to schedule appointments to do so. The Lottery estimates 40 players have reached out to claim their prize of $50,001 or more, with just under $20 million in prizes waiting to be distributed.
“The Lottery is adjusting procedures in accordance with statewide efforts to maximize safety in response to COVID-19. Currently, we have about 40 players waiting to claim prizes of more than $50,000,” said lottery spokesperson Jake Harris in an email to MLive. “Tentative appointments have been scheduled for all those players, but we have had to reschedule these appointments as circumstances surrounding COVID-19 continue to evolve.”
It is unclear when those appointments will be able to be honored as the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold.
“Understandably, some players are very excited to claim their prizes, and we are doing everything we can to get them paid as quickly as possible,” Harris said.
In March, the Lottery issued a press release informing players that claim offices around the state will be closed during the COVID-19 pandemic as the state responded to the crisis and wanted to protect the safety of employees and players looking to claim a prize. Those offices located in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Livonia, Saginaw, Sterling Heights, and Lansing have not reopened.
“Lottery prizes of up to $600 may be claimed at retailers and prizes of $601 to $50,000 may be claimed via U.S. mail. Prize claims of $50,001 will continue to be processed by appointment,” read a portion of the release.
Harris said the Lottery has processed winning tickets worth $50,000 or less via mail-in claims. In those cases, winners mail in the ticket along with a form and copies of certain identification. They are then sent a check in the mail. Traditionally, prizes over $600 must be claimed in person by the winner who receives a check when they visit the claims office. That will change once offices reopen.
“When Lottery offices reopen, claims will be accepted on a drop-off basis only and checks will be mailed directly to players,” Harris wrote.
One player who was able to claim their prize was the person who won a $70 million Powerball jackpot in February. In that case, the Lottery scheduled a press conference to announce the winner as required through state law. In Michigan, players can elect to not identify themselves for all games operated solely in Michigan. But state law requires winners of multi-state games such as Mega Millions and Powerball to make their identity public.
The planned press conference did not happen because of the virus, according to Harris but a video interview with the winner has been recorded. Harris did not know when that information would be made public, but said it will be shared at some point.
While players in Michigan have not been able to claim the nearly $20 million in jackpot prizes, Harris assured players the Lottery’s prize pool is not impacted by the state’s project budget problems as a result of the virus.
“The Lottery and all prizes are self-funded; prize claims do not affect and are not affected by the projected state budget shortfall,” Harris wrote.
While the Lottery awaits a timetable for when the offices can begin processing the claims, players who win big prizes are encouraged to follow certain steps.
“All players who have won a Lottery prize should sign the back of their ticket and keep it in a safe place. Also, players should refrain from posting announcements or pictures of winning tickets on social media until after claiming the prize as this may unintentionally lead to attempted scams,” Harris said.
Winners of prizes of $50,001 or more must contact the Michigan Lottery’s public relations department to schedule an appointment to claim their prize. For more information on how to claim a prize of $50,000 or less visit the state’s website.
In addition to washing hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone may be carrying the virus.
Health officials say you should be staying at least 6 feet away from others and working from home, if possible.
Use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray cleaners on frequently-touched surfaces in your home (door handles, faucets, countertops) and carry hand sanitizer with you when you go into places like stores.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also issued an executive order requiring people to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose while inside enclosed, public spaces.
Read all of MLive’s coverage on the coronavirus at mlive.com/coronavirus.
Additional information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.
Complete coverage at mlive.com/coronavirus
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