Economy

In some states lottery winnings a hit with debt collectors

RALEIGH — The lottery collected a record $1 million during the past year from prize winners who were also debtors.

The lottery scans big winners against a list of people who owe child support, back taxes, hospital bills and student loans. So as you dream about spending the piles of money you plan to win in the lottery, don't forget those bills you never paid.

The big collection comes in a record year for lottery sales, which topped $1.4 billion, a 10 percent increase from the previous year. And of the $835 million paid in prize money last year, $1million is a relatively small amount. The debts can be as small as $50. Some are thousands of dollars. Lots of those winners are happy to finally be able to pay their debts.

"Many of them are relieved," said lottery Executive Director Tom Shaheen. "Hopefully they still get to walk out with some cash."

The lottery's debt program is similar to a program that allows governments and agencies to collect their debts through withholding from state income tax refunds. Lottery collections are tiny compared to those efforts.

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