Maryland Lottery: People claimed prizes they didn't win

Almost everyone would love to claim just one winning lottery ticket, but according to a legislative audit, there are people in Maryland who have cashed in on many, many more.

"It really has nothing to do with winning. There’s no problem with the integrity of the games, there’s no problem with people actually winning the games," explained Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director John Martin. "The challenge came with claiming winning tickets."

Here’s the deal: according to a state audit released in March, Maryland Lottery and Gaming "did not investigate individuals who won multiple high-dollar lottery prizes to identify patterns of potential collusion between players, lottery-related vendors, or officials." 

The report goes on to say there are eight people who each claimed "high-dollar" prizes 200 or more times during 2020, totaling nearly $4.5 million in winnings. Altogether, auditors found there were 362 people who claimed "high-dollar" prizes at least 20 times that same year, totaling more than $31 million. 

They considered lottery prizes of more than $600 to be "high-dollar."

READ MORE: Maryland State Lottery opening licensing website in effort to move forward with mobile sports betting

Martin, however, said there’s more to the story. 

He told FOX 5 Monday that when you cash in a winning ticket, Maryland first takes out any money you owe the state. 

For example, that could be back taxes, or it could be child support. Martin said it’s called "discounting" when a person gives their winning ticket to someone else with a clean record who therefore wouldn’t have any money subtracted from the winnings. That way, the person who actually purchased the winning ticket pays the person who claims the prize an agreed upon fee instead of the state taking out whatever the actual winner owes.

RELATED: Maryland officials give no timeline for launch of mobile sports betting

Martin said that’s how you end up with people who’ve turned in an extraordinary number of winning tickets. He added that "discounting" has been going on for years all over the country, and he said the Maryland Lottery has taken action.

"It’s wrong on a number of levels and the systems in place now that we have will address the way for us to more effectively track that, and where appropriate, we will punish the bad actors, we’ll punish the retailers who may be complicit in that process," Martin explained. "So at the end of the day, the state gets the money that’s due them, and we maintain the integrity of the process."

You can find the full audit report by the State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency here.