U.S. lottery vows to help Canadian Powerball players collect prize
Published Wednesday, January 13, 2016 8:31AM EST Last Updated Wednesday, January 13, 2016 9:54PM EST
Washington lottery officials say they'll help any potential Canadian Powerball winners collect their prize money, after concerns that a little-known U.S. law could prevent cross-border players from cashing in on Wednesday's record jackpot.
Thousands of Canadians have poured across the U.S. border ahead of Wednesday's draw, dreaming of taking home the $1.5-billion prize.
But a U.S. imports law raised fears this week that any potential Canadian winners would be unable to collect the money.
According to U.S. law, "all persons are prohibited from importing into the United States from any foreign country any … lottery ticket, or any printed paper that may be used as a lottery ticket, or any advertisement of any lottery."
Border guards warned Burnaby, B.C. resident Lisa Yuen about the rule when she travelled to the U.S. to purchase tickets for the previous Powerball draw on Saturday.
Now, like other Canadians, she says she's feeling nervous about driving back to the States to buy more tickets.
"I just want to really make sure before I go and sit in line again to buy tickets … that I really can win," Yuen told CTV Vancouver.
On Tuesday, Washington lottery officials tried to ease those concerns, issuing a statement promising to help any Canadian winners collect their money.
"Players have 180 days to redeem a winning ticket. During that time, our Lottery will certainly work with anyone impacted by a border issue to achieve crossing and pay the prize," spokesperson Jana Jones said in an email to CTV Vancouver.
Meanwhile, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson says the agency is "ardently and fastidiously working" on a solution.
At least one B.C. man has run into problems in the past for trying to take lottery tickets into the U.S.
Conda Reddy says he had nine B.C. lottery tickets confiscated while trying to cross the border in December. The agency has since returned the tickets, as well as his Nexus card, which was taken during the incident.
As Wednesday's draw approaches, Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer based in Blaine, Wash., says he doesn't expect officials will take away more lottery cards.
"But if (border crossing guards) want to be nitpicky, they could enforce that obscure law and take them," he said. "They have the right to."
Of course, even if officials do find a way to open the doors for a Canadian to collect the prize, a larger obstacle remains: Powerball players have only a one-in-292-million chance of winning the jackpot, making it highly unlikely anybody will be crossing the border and returning home $1.5 billion richer.
With files from CTV Vancouver