4:01 p.m. CDT, March 15, 2013
Call it luck of the Irish: a $1 million lottery prize ticket sold last year on St. Patrick’s Day in suburban Wood Dale finally has turned up.
Lottery officials announced Friday that the ticket was presented to officials for verification on Thursday —three days before the pot o’ gold could no longer be cashed in.
The Tribune reported last month that the clock was ticking down because winners must claim their prize within a year of buying a ticket.
Last St. Patrick’s Day, four lucky tickets worth $1 million each were sold as part of the Illinois Lottery’s Millionaire Raffle drawing.
One of them, purchased at a Marathon gas station in Wood Dale, had yet to be claimed — until now.
Cash prizes are redeemable up through one year after the drawing. The cash prize was set to expire at midnight Sunday.
That all changed when an attorney representing three Chicago-area residents went to lottery officials in Des Plaines to present the winning ticket on Thursday.
The three people splitting the pot have yet to be identified, but the owner of the gas station that sold the ticket was thrilled.
Jim Batson said the topic of the unclaimed ticket was popular among his patrons.
“A lot of people had heard of it, wanting to know more,” Batson said. “They want to know, wishing it could be them — I wish I was that person too. But unfortunately, we hadn’t heard nothing.”
Batson said he had not heard anyone had claimed the ticket until the Tribune called him today.
“It’s great news that the missing $1 million ticket was found,” said lottery Superintendent Michael Jones. “I urge everyone who has bought, or will buy, a St. Patrick’s Day raffle ticket for this year’s drawing on Sunday to sign the back of the ticket and keep it handy.”
The Millionaire Raffle is a specialty drawing where 500,000 individually numbered tickets are sold at $20 a pop. A computerized drawing spits out four winning tickets, each worth $1 million. The odds of capturing the top prize are 1 in 125,000, with smaller prizes in between.
The other three big winners in the Millionaire Raffle last year bought tickets at convenience stores in Pocahontas, near St. Louis, and Robinson, in southern Illinois near the Indiana border. The other winning ticket was bought at another Marathon station on Busse Road in Elk Grove Village, just down the road from the gas station in Wood Dale.
In the previous budget year, unclaimed lottery prizes totaled $32.4 million in Illinois. The Wood Dale ticket almost became yet another seven-figure prize lost.
The largest unclaimed prize in state history was a $14 million Lotto ticket sold in Frankfort in January 2004.
There is one unlucky part of the story: lottery officials said the winners will lose $300,000 to state and federal taxes, leaving the winners $700,000.