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Lotto alert: Search zone grows for about-to-expire $1-million ticket

The ticket is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on March 18.
Someone who purchased a Lotto 6/49 ticket on the North Island has only until midnight on March 18 to claim a $1-million prize.

Everybody from Qualicum Beach north, look in your wallet right now. It might hold a $1-million lottery ticket — but only if you claim the prize before midnight.

In late January, B.C. Lottery Corp. revealed that a winning Lotto 6/49 ticket sold last year somewhere on the north end of Vancouver Island — described as including such places as Port Hardy and Telegraph Cove — was still unclaimed and set to expire at 11:59 p.m. March 18.

Late Wednesday came ­clarification: The ticket could have been sold at any of the 117 lottery vendors from ­Qualicum up.

That news should send people in places like Campbell River and the Comox Valley into a one-day frenzy, fishing down the back of the couch and under the passenger seat in an abbreviated version of the treasure hunt that went on farther north.

As it is, people at the very top of the Island are losing hope. At the Alert Bay Drug Store, ­Georgette Lauten says the odd person still comes in gripping a fistful of betting slips, drawing a crowd to the ticket scanner — “Everyone stands around ­saying ‘Is this it? Is this it?’ ” — but time is running out.

At Port Hardy’s Town Pantry, Sukhy Singh hears rueful ­customers wonder if they lost the ticket.

Ditto for April Foster at ­Timberland Sports in Port McNeill. “Hopefully, somebody won’t find it on the 19th,” Foster says. That would be awful.

Yes, yes it would. As it is, we’re already upset about the money going unclaimed, period. That is, if there’s one thing almost as bad as having the scanner confirm what you ­suspected — “Not a winner” — it’s the knowledge that no one else got rich, either.

The silver lining of losing the lottery has always been the ­comfort of knowing that some other schmuck just had the best day of his or her life, their financial worries suddenly gone. Therefore, the idea of a million bucks turning into a pumpkin at midnight is gutting to anyone whose retirement plans are predicated on A) saying yes to the Extra and B) praying.

That’s why, in January 2019, Victorians were aghast when another million-dollar ticket went similarly unredeemed. In that case, Islanders were so worked up that one of them recruited Peter Sewell, a Lower Mainland map-dowser — that is, someone who finds lost items by poring over maps — to pinpoint the ticket’s location. Sewell came up with the address of a Victoria couple who couldn’t recall ­buying a ticket, but searched their home just in case. No luck.

Whoever bought that ticket wasn’t the first person to miss out. Five $1-million prizes have gone unclaimed in B.C. in the past 10 years. (For perspective, 27 British Columbians won $1 million or more in 2020.)

When winnings go unclaimed in one of the nationally run games like the 6/49 or Lotto Max, the money goes back into the prize pot. When it’s a B.C. Lottery Corp.-operated game like the BC/49, the cash goes to the provincial government.

The north end of the Island does get its share of winners. A Port Hardy-area lighthouse keeper won $1 million in 2019, though he couldn’t get leave to claim his prize for two months. In Alert Bay, Lauten should be a good luck charm, seeing as she was the one who sold a 64-year-old retiree a ticket worth $3.4 million in 2016.

The most famous north Island winner was Vinnie Parker, a 51-year-old Zeballos logger living in an 18-foot travel trailer when he won $1 million in 1999. He became an instant legend when, forced to come to Victoria to collect his prize, he outlined his plans for the money: “I’m going to blow it.”

He said he wanted to buy some muscle cars, get his dog laid and build his own RV park so that he and his pals could party without being hassled like they were in the municipally owned one. (“Just to piss the mayor off.”)

“If there’s anything worse than me having an attitude, it’s me having the same attitude and having money,” he told the Times Colonist’s Carla Wilson before fleeing the capital as though it were on fire.

It took Parker just six months or so to blast through his winnings, though he often did so in the most generous of ways, from buying mini-quads for the town’s kids to quietly slipping cash to people in need.

That, dear reader, is what you do with a winning lottery ticket.

For the record, what’s about to expire tonight is the $1-million guaranteed prize winner from the March 18, 2020, draw.

The winning number, 19117903-02, is displayed on the ticket under the main set of six numbers.

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