SINGAPORE - Did you claim your 4-D or Toto prize money? Many winners did not.
Some $142 million in prize money was left unclaimed in its last three financial years, a Singapore Pools spokesman said. Singapore Pools is the sole legal operator of lotteries and sports betting in Singapore.
In its last financial year, which ended in March, $48 million was unclaimed. This compares to $42 million in financial year 2014/2015 and $52 million in FY2015/2016.
While the figure is huge, the unclaimed sums a year form less than 1 per cent of the total prize money paid out each year.
In Singapore, billions of dollars in bets are placed on 4-D, Toto and soccer games a year.
In the Singapore Totalisator Board's (Tote Board) annual report released on Nov 23, about $21 billion in bets were waged on lotteries and sports betting in its last three financial years. Singapore Pools is owned by the Tote Board, a statutory board.
The Singapore Pools spokesman said it does not know how many people did not claim their prizes, as it records sales by the number of transactions and each customer may make more than one transaction. It also does not know why the prize money is unclaimed, except that winners could have forgotten to check their tickets.
The $142 million in unclaimed prize money in its last three financial years is more than double the $57 million in unclaimed prizes in its 1998, 1999 and 2000 financial years. Then, Singapore Pools told The New Paper that the unclaimed sums was less than 1 per cent of the total prize money paid out.
The unclaimed prize money will be channelled to the Tote Board, Singapore's largest giver of funds which gives to a wide variety of social and other causes.
Winners have 180 days from the date of the draw to claim their prizes. It was extended from 90 days in 2010 to allow people more time to claim their prizes.
The Singapore Pools spokesman said it may explore using technology to help customers keep track of their purchases and adopt responsible betting habits, although it declined to share more details.
He said: "We will share details when there are concrete plans."
Mr Wong Kee Soon, founder of Adullam Life Counselling, which helps those with debt problems, said some people may buy 4-D or Toto out of habit but forget to check their tickets, hence failing to claim their prizes.
He pointed out that in the past, even million-dollar prizes went unclaimed. In 2005, it was reported that the $2 million top prize in the Singapore Sweep was not claimed. Then, the Singapore Pools told the media that most of the unclaimed prizes were for less than $1,000 each.
Mr Billy Lee, executive director of Blessed Grace Social Services, which helps gambling addicts, said: "Those who buy 4-D hope to strike it rich and they check their tickets religiously. I'm surprised that so much prize money was left unclaimed."