Winners of more than $156 million are still waiting for Ontario’s lottery office to reopen amidst new Coronavirus guidelines.
Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. said at least 130 people have bought winning tickets with prizes of more than $50,000 since COVID-19 closed down its prize centre in mid-March. Their winnings total more than $156.5 million — the amount won from just seven jackpots.
OLG spokesperson Dita Kuhtey said they are working to resume in-person claims by incorporating all necessary and recommended health and safety protocols to protect customers and staff.
“We’re hoping to move the process forward as soon as possible and as safely as possible when the time is right,” Kuhtey said.
“Paying big prizes, that’s the best part of our job, making winners. I know lots of winners are obviously anxious to get their prize money.”
Ontario Lottery closed its Toronto prize centre to the public on 17th March, the day the province announced a state of emergency due to COVID-19.
Until the building reopens to the public, anyone who has won $50,000 or more must hang on to their ticket.
There have been seven jackpot wins in Ontario since the prize centre was closed, with winnings of $6.5 million to $70 million.
Kuhtey said OLG is keeping in contact with large prize claimants who have reached out it. There are 130 known claims of $50,000 or more that have had tickets validated at retail outlets or tracked through the OLG support centre.
Kuhtey said outstanding prize claims are being managed on a priority basis.
When the prize office first closed, people could mail in their winning tickets up to $9,999 and the lottery office would send them a cheque through registered mail. A couple of weeks later as the emergency order continued, the amount was increased to $49,999 so more winners could get their prize money.
But OLG requires anyone who has won more than $49,999 to claim their winnings in-person to ensure everything is on the level. The winner must be interviewed at the prize centre before walking away with a cheque.
“With prizes of that size, to maintain the integrity of the prize claim process, there is a face-to-face interview,” Kuhtey said.
“Our prize claim staff need to look at the ticket, see the ticket first hand. There are a number of controls on that ticket to ensure every time that the right prize goes to the right person.”
OLG recommends anyone with a winning ticket sign it, validate it at an authorized OLG retail location and keep it safe with the validation slip from the retailer.
Anyone who wins up to $1,000 can collect the prize at the retailer.
Kuhtey said OLG hopes to have more information about its prize centre reopening soon.
“Paying the right prize to the right person is the most important part of it,” she said, “and, of course, celebrating with our winners is the fun part of it.”