RIDGE MANOR, Fla. (WFLA) — Sue Burgess was overjoyed to learn last month that she won $1,000 in a Second Chance Lottery drawing. But that joy quickly disappeared when, weeks later, the Florida Lottery informed her she’ll have to forfeit the prize, and her winnings will go to an alternate winner.
That’s because the U.S. Postal Service did not deliver the ticket to lottery headquarters in Tallahassee, even though Burgess sent the package through certified mail.
A Second Chance Lottery winner has a limited window of time in which to turn in a ticket to claim winnings. Because of the pandemic, all local lottery offices were closed after Burgess won on July 29.
To claim her prize, Burgess followed the Florida Lottery’s instructions and sent in her ticket through certified mail through the U.S. Postal Service. She could have also dropped the ticket in a dropbox at a local office, but she felt certified mail would be safer.
Tracking information shows the ticket arrived at 7:12 a.m. on Aug. 12 at a Tallahassee post office, but the journey ended there. The online postal service tracking shows the ticket was never delivered to the lottery office, as required to claim a prize.
“They said, ‘No ticket, no prize,’” Burgess recalls being told when she called to inquire about the missing ticket.
Unlike other lottery games, the Florida Lottery has records of all Second Chance winners because players register their tickets and contact information. Burgess was notified that she was a winner after a lottery employee called her.
Typically, lotto winners of more than $600 can submit winning tickets in person at their local lottery office. But that was pre-COVID-19. Burgess says she was told she could send the ticket via certified mail or leave the ticket in a dropbox at a local lottery office.
Burgess said there was a one-week timeframe to submit the ticket, but she missed an email about being a winner, and by the time the office called her, she had days to get the ticket postmarked, so she chose certified mail.
“That’s why you choose certified mail,” Burgess said. “With COVID, I understand the mail is a little bit slow. But for safety sake, certified mail usually has priority.”
A spokesperson for the Florida Lottery emailed that the “Burgess’ claim was never received by the Florida Lottery.” The email cited the tracking information found on the postal service showing the package is still “in transit, so it was not delivered.”
The claims processing department urged Burgess to contact USPS for more information on what happened to her package. A postal service spokesman says the post office is investigating but does not yet know what happened to the package.
The Postal Service sent this statement:
The Postal Service strives to always provide the best possible service to our customers. We apologize to this specific customer for any inconvenience they may have experienced.
In this specific instance, we are continuing to work with the lottery office to confirm receipt of the mailpiece.
A spokeswoman for the Florida Lottery said this is an unusual situation and agreed to bend a little, saying the lottery is not responsible for mistakes made by the postal service but if this package shows up postmarked by the original deadline, the lottery will pay Burgess her $1,000.
Burgess worries that will never happen since it has already been six weeks since the package arrived at the Tallahassee post office.
NewsNation affiliate WFLA contributed to this report.