Lost tickets can still be winners

May 16, 2001 1:23 AM

A funny thing happened recently at the Imperial Palace sports book.

A bettor came in with a winning sports ticket from 1992 and wanted to cash it. The ticket was a $20 baseball parlay.

So he took the ticket to Jay Kornegay, IP race and sports book director. The book’s policy is accepting winning tickets up to 60 days after the event.

"This happens a lot where a bettor wants to cash in a winning ticket after 60 days and we usually give in," Kornegay said. "But this was way past what you would call the statue of limitations. I did say ”˜no.’ We have a different computer system now. Everyone there at the book at that moment, including that guy (who was a tourist from the East Coast), had a laugh."

But what about lost winning tickets never cashed? It seems to be another added edge for the house. But is it a big deal?

"All substantial big bets are cashed in," said Robert Walker, The Mirage race and sports book director. "Sure there are some $5 bets that are not cashed in, so bettors can keep the ticket as a souvenir. I don’t have any exact numbers on this, but it’s not that big of a matter."

The pattern holds true at Imperial Palace.

"Just about all big bets are cashed," Kornegay said. "There’s not a lot (that are not cashed in). I don’t have the numbers on (tickets not cashed)."

Terrible’s race and sports book director Thomas Vernon said his property has about 10 winning outstanding tickets (since the casino opened last December), most are small bets.

Greg Gale, Chief Auditor of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, added they don’t have access to a dollar amount of winning tickets not cashed but the casinos would have them if kept. Gale added that books are audited every 2½ to 3 years and will show every winning ticket cashed for tax deductions.

Bettor vs. house

Weird things can happen to winning tickets.

A report in Las Vegas had a bettor buying a ticket on a college football bowl game last December. The bettor left Las Vegas.

The ticket then became a winner in early January. On the way back to Las Vegas, a few days after the game, the bettor’s ticket is stolen during an armed robbery in the Midwest. The bettor’s ticket was in his wallet - which was taken.

When the bettor got to Las Vegas the next week, he filed a claim at the book. The bettor knew the amount bet and what day it was purchased. Eventually, through the supervisor’s persistence, the bettor remembers exactly what the time of the purchase and computer records indicate the bettor is telling the truth.

The supervisor finds the ticket in the system and locks it out. Three months later, after the winning ticket was never cashed, the book pays the bettor through a check.

But some disputes over lost tickets don’t work out so easily. The Gaming Control Board does get complaints from bettors who claim they were not paid.

"We don’t bother with (lost tickets), unless there is a dispute," said Keith Copher, Chief of the Enforcement of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. "We get very few complaints, but they do happen once in a while. There has to be proof by the bettor, and if there is enough proof, then the book pays."

Kornegay said his book understands bettors’ mishaps.

"We give the guest the benefit of the doubt," Kornegay said. "We need to keep good customer relations."

A tourist problem?

Lost tickets appear to be more of a problem for Strip casinos.

That’s because the Strip casinos deal primarily with tourists who leave town with tickets.

"At Terrible’s our players are regulars," said Vernon, who runs the off-Strip property’s book. "Our players come right back to the book."

Palace Station is another off-Strip property.

"We deal to (primarily) locals," said Rob Terry, race and sports book director. "Turnaround on tickets is so quick, usually about 24 hours."

Terry said lost winning tickets are "minimal." He also added that Station Casinos’ policy is up to 120 days to cash in a ticket.

Just about all race and sports winning tickets can be mailed back by putting an address on the back of the ticket and mailing it to the casino. It usually takes around a month, to be paid by check, which is handled by the casinos’ accounting departments.