Darnell Ivy’s sister gives him instant lottery tickets every year as Christmas gifts, last year giving the North Side man $50 worth of the scratch-off tickets.
Though the most he’s won is $40, Ivy said it’s the thought that counts.
“I appreciate it, not just because it’s lottery tickets. I appreciate it because it’s a gift,” said Ivy, who said he typically checks the tickets within a few hours of receiving them.
Holiday sales of instant lottery tickets are big business, accounting for 6.5 percent of total sales for the year and just over 10 percent of instant game sales, the state agency said.
People are more likely to buy instant tickets to give as gifts than those like Mega Millions and Powerball, lottery spokesman Gary Miller said, and sales accelerate closer to the Christmas holiday.
“Typically, draw games, those are for your own enjoyment or a workplace pool. Instant games are portable and fun to play, which makes them appealing as a gift,” Miller said.
Sales of holiday-themed games kicked off at the end of October, including the “$1,000,000 Peppermint Payout,” which features peppermint-scented, $20 tickets. One of the five $1 million prizes has been claimed, Miller said.
On Nov. 14, the lottery began selling the twice-annual Millionaire Raffle, with four top prizes of $1 million. Sales of the $20 tickets, bearing an eight-digit raffle number, are capped at 500,000. The raffle will be drawn Jan. 3.
During November and December of 2013, the lottery sold $246 million in instant game tickets, Though Miller did not say whether sales would increase this season, he supplied figures showing that instant sales have risen an average of nearly 9 percent during the past four years.
Ticket holders have a year from the drawing date to claim the prize, or, in the case of instant tickets, a year from when sales of a particular game end.
In the last fiscal year, about $18.4 million in lottery prizes went unclaimed, some of them instant game tickets, Miller said.
On March 13, 25 Quinto tickets with a total value of $1.25 million expired, Miller said. They were bought in York. A $1 million Millionaire Raffle ticket from a July 10, 2010, drawing and sold at a Western Pennsylvania grocery store, expired the following year. Miller said the lottery announces when prizes over $50,000 are set to expire within a few weeks in hopes of spurring people to check their tickets.
“We want players to check every ticket every time,” he said. “The Pennsylvania Lottery hates to see any prize go unclaimed.”
Unclaimed money goes back to the lottery fund.
Odds of winning depend on the individual games, but the lottery said that 62 cents of each dollar spent by players goes back as prize winnings, and another 29 cents goes to programs for senior citizens such as property tax and rent rebates, free transit and reduced-fare shared rides.
In fiscal year 2013-14, the lottery had $3.8 billion in sales, and contributed more than $1 billion to programs.
The lottery recommends that lottery tickets should not be given as gifts to anyone younger than 18, the legal age for playing the lottery in Pennsylvania, Miller said.
North Side resident Shaylon Hooten, 56, plays the lottery three times a week, he said outside the 7-Eleven. His sister buys him Big 4 tickets as Christmas gifts every year, he said.
“Any gift is a good gift. It’s the thought that counts,” Hooten said.
He declined to reveal how much he has won from the lottery, but he said winnings from a ticket received as a gift “would be a blessing.”
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or [email protected]. Staff writer Tory N. Parrish contributed to this report.