Why Your Lottery Ticket May Say to Contact Lottery Office

Have you ever scanned a lottery ticket only to see the confusing message “contact lottery” or “see retailer”? If your scratcher or draw game ticket seems to be directing you to contact the lottery, don’t worry. There are a few common reasons why you may need to call or visit your lottery’s office.

This article will explain the main causes of “contact lottery” messages and what you need to do next. With the right information, you can get answers about your lottery ticket and prizes. Let’s break down the need-to-know details!

You’ve Won a Large Prize the Retailer Can’t Pay Out

One of the most common reasons a lottery ticket will instruct you to contact the lottery is because you’ve won a sizable prize. Most lottery retailers can only pay out relatively small or medium-sized wins up to $600.

If your winning scratcher, Powerball, Mega Millions or other ticket is over this threshold, the lottery terminal will recognize that the retailer cannot pay you. Instead, it will gently recommend you contact the lottery to claim your prize properly.

For wins over $5,000, you may also need to supply tax information and have federal taxes withheld before receiving the full balance. Handling this paperwork requires direct coordination with your state lottery office.

So next time your ticket says “contact lottery”, celebrate! There is a good chance you are in line for a life-changing jackpot.

There’s an Issue Processing Your Ticket

Don’t break out the champagne just yet though. Another explanation for contact lottery messages is an issue processing your ticket.

Problems can occur if:

  • Your ticket is damaged and the barcode cannot scan
  • There are technical glitches with the lottery terminal
  • The scanner failed to read it correctly

Contacting your state lottery administrators directly allows them to enter details manually or otherwise validate your entry.

Before calling, double check the condition of your ticket. Smooth out any creases, wipe away residue, and try scanning again if the initial problem was an easy fix.

If that fails, reach out to lottery customer service by phone or email depending on the process in your state. Representatives can look up details about your ticket number and purchase to rectify problems.

In rare cases, misprints and other ticket defects could also lead your claim to be directed to the lottery. But the office should be able to assist if your entry is legitimate.

Your Scratcher Wasn’t Activated Properly

Scratch-off lottery tickets have an extra validation step. Retailers must “activate” each new roll of scratchers upon delivery as an anti-fraud measure. This confirms to lottery systems that the tickets come from a legitimate source.

Sometimes activation does not happen properly before scratchers get sold. When you later try to check or claim a prize, the lottery terminal cannot find details about the ticket. Hence triggering a “contact lottery” style message.

Thankfully this is relatively simple to fix. Call your state lottery administrators and explain when and where you bought the unactivated ticket. The office can then contact the retailer to activate the related game and tickets. This should allow you to successfully scan your entry and receive any prize owed!

While less likely than a big win or ticket defect, it pays to understand what an unactivated scratcher means for claiming prizes.

You Scanned a Free Ticket Prize

Here is a more straightforward possibility. Free ticket prizes entitle players to a free entry of equal value to their initial lottery purchase. Casual players may not realize some scratch games offer this as a lower tier prize option.

When you scan a winning scratcher ticket that contains a free ticket payout, lottery terminals cannot determine the value. So they print the generic contact lottery or see retailer recommendation.

To clarify the situation, take your ticket in person to where you bought it or a lottery district office. Staff can readily identify free ticket wins and print your new entry.

Getting more chances to play feels almost as good as real cash!

It’s Too Early to Check that Ticket

Draw games like Mega Millions and Powerball rely on scheduled drawings to generate numbers and set prizes. Naturally you cannot scan a ticket prior to the ball drop to predict possible winnings accurately.

Attempting to scan will bring up a “results not in” or related message indicating it is too early. This avoids false wins or losses before final drawings happen.

Similarly if you bought consecutive draws on a single ticket, scanning in between may show inaccurate messages until the next drawing occurs. Always double check dates printed on your ticket to be sure you are checking within the valid prize period.

Be patient about scanning draw games. Confirm the drawing schedule and buy tickets wisely according to when you want to participate. If impatient, scratch games offer instant results without any waiting!

Frequently Asked Questions

Still unsure why you need to contact the lottery or see a retailer over your ticket? Here are answers to some other common questions:

Why can’t retailers pay large prizes?

Lottery retailers earn commission on ticket sales and prizes claimed in their stores. However handling large amounts of cash poses security issues. $600 is a reasonable threshold for paying out-of-pocket. Larger wins also involve tax paperwork better handled directly through state lottery administration.

How long do I have to claim my prize?

In most states and games, you have 180 days from the relevant drawing date to claim your prize with the lottery. This timeframe varies slightly by region and game, for instance allowing more time for draw tickets with larger jackpots. Check your ticket and local lottery rules about deadlines.

What if my ticket gets lost or too damaged to read?

If you cannot physically scan a damaged or lost ticket, first relax. Strongly consider where you may have lost or damaged the entry. If purchased locally, contact the original retailer ASAP and explain in case someone turns it in. You can also directly reach out to your lottery’s head office with identifying details about the ticket and purchase. Staff can search databases for your entry and may still honor intact prizes.

Do I have to claim my own lottery prize or can someone else do it?

Third party services exist to accept prize transfers for a fee, subject to local lottery rules. But in most cases lotteries encourage winners to claim personally for security and tax reasons. Assuming you have a rightful winning ticket, simply follow notification instructions provided to collect your earnings!


We all likely daydream about instant scratcher success or hitting the Powerball jackpot. Yet seeing instructions to contact the lottery rather than direct prize payouts can set minds racing. In reality it comes down to a few common situations.

Checking your ticket early, technical processing problems or winning significant sums are the most frequent reasons. All can be resolved by getting in touch with helpful lottery personnel to determine next steps.

So take a breath, double check your entry and reach out to the lottery via phone, email or in person. With all the relevant details, staff should be able to confirm the status of your ticket and any appropriate winnings. Expect to provide purchase locations, dates, game details and more. Plus identification and tax paperwork as needed to facilitate prize payout.

Anxiously awaiting these responses beats never winning at all! Be proactive about understanding lottery processes to turn contact lottery messages into celebration. Consistently verifying entries also avoids leaving genuine prizes unclaimed.

Stay diligent, play responsibly within your means and don’t hesitate to ask lottery administrators questions. With the right communication and timing, big lottery success could be waiting for you.

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