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Lottery players struggling to buy or cash in tickets

EDMONTON -- With a $70 million jackpot up for grabs in this Tuesday's Lotto Max draw, some lottery players are finding it hard to buy tickets.

"The majority of retailers are still open but we are seeing that several stores and some chains are deciding to suspend lottery for the moment," said Kevin van Egdom, communications director with the Western Canada Lottery Corporation.

However some of the retailers that will sell tickets won't redeem winning ones from customers.

"We do certainly want them to redeem winning tickets for people but I understand right now there is a reluctance by some retailers to be handling cash, handling other people’s tickets," said van Egdom.

 So how do people redeem their winnings? The WCLC says you're best to hang onto a ticket until the pandemic is over or you find a retailer that will pay it out.

Winning tickets of $1,000.00 or more can be mailed to the corporation. And for big winners, like the four Albertans who each won a million dollars in Friday's Max Millions draw, they're urged to contact WCLC by phone.

"We’ll certainly talk to the winner and figure out what works for everyone, staying safe and seeing where we get to with these prize claims," van Egdom said.

The WCLC is also expected to announce a plan this week about how it will handle tickets that have expired since March 17, 2020 or are set to expire.

"We don’t want anyone to miss out on a prize because of what’s going on right now," said van Egdom.

Since people have been asked to self-isolate, the WCLC says retail lotto sales have dropped. But there has been an increase in people buying what’s called 'Advance Play.' It's one ticket that is good for 25 consecutive draws.

There’s also been a spike in the number of online lottery subscriptions.

"We check it for you, you don’t have to worry about it. We take care of all the prizes for you as well so that absolutely does get rid of that back and forth to the store during this time," van Egdom said.

Once winnings reach $50.00, the WCLC will either mail a cheque or deposit it into your bank account.

Because the lotteries are a fundraiser for provinces across the country, the WCLC hopes draws will continue through the pandemic.

"Right now the lottery is still available. I don’t know what’s going to happen and I hope we’re able to keep going and I hope things get easier for everyone soon."