BCLC Talks First Nations and Expired Lotto Tickets

There are two oft-asked questions of the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), and answers are available. What happens to unclaimed lotto tickets? Also, what happens to lottery profits?

Millions Unclaimed

Many unclaimed lotto tickets are worth small amounts. Players may win a dollar or two and decide it’s not worth going back to the store to cash in the tickets. It is more common than one may think.

Larger wins are rarely unclaimed, though. That is why the BCLC is talking about two outstanding tickets worth $350,000 combined.

  • Lotto Max ticket purchased in Richmond on July 26 = more than $100,000
  • Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Richmond on October 2 = worth more than $250,000

Even more, last year, there was a $1 million winning lottery ticket that remained unclaimed. As the expiration date neared last January, the BCLC saturated the media with requests that people check their tickets. Someone out there was $1 million richer and didn’t know it.

As it stood, that person would never know. The $1 million also went unclaimed.

CBC obtained some numbers that are even more intriguing. In the past 10 years, more than $20 million in winning lotto tickets have gone unclaimed in British Columbia alone.

Unclaimed Winnings Recycled

According to the BCLC, tickets that remain unclaimed past the expiry date are officially off the market. Players can no longer claim their winnings. The money then returns to the operator.

For games like Lotto Max that are national in scope, unclaimed prizes are returned to the prize pool for the most part. A percentage can be used to promote future national games. The BCLC website says the funds are held separately from BC-only games and administered by the Interprovincial Lottery Corporation.

For regional games like BC/49, unclaimed winnings are returned to the provincial government. The website states that the money is accounted for as part of BCLC’s net income and provided to the provincial government “to benefit the people of British Columbia.”

The 2018-2019 year, there was a total of $536.3 million in lottery revenue from $1.2 billion in lottery sales. All of that came from close to 300 million transactions.

First Nations Commitments

A part of the BCLC’s commitment to sharing its wealth and helping BC communities is a long-standing commitment to First Nations. With more than 200,000 indigenous people in BC and 198 distinct First Nations, the government has made a commitment to them that extends through the BCLC.

The commitment has been ongoing for years but took an official turn this year when it was put into the BC provincial budget. The BC First Nations Gaming Revenue Sharing Limited Partnership was announced as the official agreement to redirect a portion of net provincial gaming revenues to First Nation communities in British Columbia.

The agreement was a product of years of negotiations between the First Nations Gaming Commission, BCLC, and lawmakers. And the new partnership will take control of the money to distribute, manage, and report on the revenue.

At the time of the singing of the agreement on August 2, 2019, the focus was on the first two years of payments to eligible BC First Nations. To become eligible, any of the First Nations may sign onto the partnership to receive a portion of the revenue, which could be between $250,000 and $2 million per year, beginning with the 2019/2020 fiscal year.

Larger and Longer Commitment

The BC government will be introducing new legislation to approve the agreement with First Nations. It will be an amendment to the Gaming Control Act supported by the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and Attorney General David Eby.

Per the amendment, eligible First Nations in BC will be entitled to 7% of BCLC’s net income for the next 23 years, in addition to the two already under appropriation by the BC First Nations Gaming Revenue Sharing Limited Partnership. That two-year commitment has already seen $194.84 million shared.

The amount expected for distribution to First Nations is approximately $100 million going forward for each of the next 23 years.

Under the new amendment, First Nations will be directed to spend the money on six specified areas, but they are quite wide-ranging and all-encompassing.

  • Health and wellness
  • Infrastructure, safety, transportation, and housing
  • Economic and business development
  • Education, language, culture, and training
  • Community development and environmental protection
  • Capacity building, fiscal management and governance

CBC spoke to some of the First Nations members to understand how critical the money will be for their communities. Nuu-chah-nulth tribal council President Judith Sayers said the agreement has been 13 years in the making. And First Nations Summit Political Executive member Robert Phillips said the money will go a long way to help underfunded communities with extreme socio-economic issues.


Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. As the online gaming sectors have changed and grown, particularly in the United States and Canada, she has followed it all and written about it for websites like World Poker Tour and PokerScout. In her free time, she runs a small business, reads, cooks, and enjoys music.


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