SPOKANE, Wash. — We know the chances of winning the lottery are slim and the odds are against us, but occasionally we just can't help but dream.

Sometimes, these already slim odds can be even worse than we think. It might be impossible to win.  

In Washington, some lottery tickets stay on the shelves even after the jackpot has already been won. The state lottery does not require retailers to pull games, because they say smaller prizes may still be available. 

Washington’s Lottery launches 40-45 scratch games each year, making up to 75 percent of total sales each month.

Some of those sales come from people who bought lottery tickets without knowing that the top prize has already been claimed. 

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Gaylene Gray is the Instant Product Manager at Washington's Lottery.
She says the game closure process starts as soon as they are notified that the last top prize is claimed.

"We send a message to all of the retailers, either that day, or the next morning, that the last top prize has been claimed, and that it's no longer available for sale," Gray said.

But she admits it's still possible for customers to still buy tickets for a prize that isn't even available.

"We do not do a hard pull on a game," says Gray. "So, there is a possibility, that once a retailer gets a message, they don't pull the game right away."

Washington's Lottery leaves it up to retailers to pull expired scratch games out of circulation.

At Sunset Grocery in Spokane, KREM saw firsthand how that doesn't always happen.

"I didn't even know we get notifications until I went and rifled through it," said Manager Dillan Shaules. 

During a single week in February, more than 1.8 million Washington scratch tickets were sold, some of which may have been for an expired jackpot. 

Payers can find updated scratch game information available on the Lottery's website and mobile app.

In a statement, Washington's Lottery told KREM: 

"Once a scratch ticket's top prize is claimed, Washington's Lottery alerts all retailers to remove the game from circulation and updates its website and mobile app. Players are encouraged to check the website or app for the most up-to-date information when purchasing scratch tickets. While the top prizes may be claimed, other prizes remain and every ticket has the chance to be a winner."

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