Apr 24, 2008, 1:15 pm
California lottery players originally had just 6 months to claim Mega winnings, while those in other states had 12. The change takes effect Jan. 1.
Californians who keep their winning Mega Millions lottery tickets in their sock drawers will soon get an additional six months to dig them out and cash them in.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation Wednesday that extends the time for claiming a jackpot in the multi-state lottery game from six months to a year.
The change, effective Jan. 1, addresses a court decision that challenged California's requirement that prizes be claimed in six months although players in other states participating in the same Mega Millions game have 12 months to do so.
That discrepancy could have jeopardized Mega Millions revenue that goes to schools in California, officials said.
"This legislation should allow us to put the concerns about Mega Millions behind us," said Joan Borucki, director of the California Lottery. "Californians can now continue to enjoy this exciting game and the more than $834 million in cash prizes since the California Lottery began offering Mega Millions in 2005."
Voters approved the state lottery in 1984, requiring that at least half its revenue be returned to the public in prizes and at least 34% benefit public education, with the rest allowed for expenses. The original bill called for prizes not claimed in 180 days to revert to education programs.
However, in 2005, the state Lottery Commission voted for California to become the 12th state to join the Mega Millions multi-state lottery.
The decision was challenged in a suit filed that year by Californians Against Gambling Expansion, on grounds that it was not approved by the Legislature or voters.
A year later, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly found that the Lottery Commission does have authority to enter into a multi-state lottery.
But he also said the requirement to claim prizes in six months created a "slight possibility" that revenue would not go to California education when prizes were claimed after six months in other states.
"Our citizens in California now have a longer period to claim their prize, and this reconciles our deadline with those of the other states," said Assemblyman Van Tran (R-Garden Grove), who wrote the bill.