Florida Lottery Winnings Being Held Due To Unemployment Error

Florida Lottery winners are experiencing issues receiving their prizes due to a system error regarding unemployment benefits.

Some lottery players in the state are being told their winnings are being withheld because of a mistake that indicates they were overpaid in unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

These winners did receive unemployment assistance during that time. However, they claim to have never received any notification from the state that they had been overpaid.

Many state lotteries incorporate a background check on winners over a certain prize level to see if they owe the state money.

Now, winners of $600 or more on lottery draw games or scratchers in the state are running into an incorrect hurdle.

Lottery players blindsided by reported debt in Florida

One such player impacted by this situation is Bob Calamita.

Calamita won a $1,000 prize in March, but when he visited the Florida Lottery offices to get his winnings, he was instead informed of a debt to the state.

Calamita says he received a letter as opposed to the cash he was expecting. It said he owed the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity $3,000 for unemployment overpayment during the pandemic.

He shared his experience with WFLA News Channel 8 in Tampa:

“I stay there about an hour and a half to be told ‘Sorry, you’re not getting this because you owe money on the DEO system.’ If I owed money I would have paid it. I have no problem with that, but I didn’t owe money.”

After efforts to find out where this overpayment came from, Calamita said he was told the issue was a computer-generated error. This glitch impacted several other Florida Lottery players.

Calamita eventually received his winnings once the issue was corrected over a month after he won the initial prize.

Florida Lottery not at fault for the issue

The error Calamita ran into is something many state lotteries use to safeguard players. Those who owe debts to the state or are behind on child support are prohibited from receiving their winnings without paying their debts first.

When reached, the Florida Lottery told PlayiLottery the following on its policy:

“The Florida Lottery withholds funds from lottery winners who have unpaid state-owed debts, including overpayments for reemployment assistance, in accordance with Section 24.115(4), Florida Statutes.

“For assistance with possible Reemployment Assistance overpayments, players can visit FloridaJobs.org for more information and resources. Additionally, the Reemployment Assistance Customer Service Center can be contacted at 1-833-352-7759.”

The issue in question doesn’t appear to be one for the Florida Lottery. It is a problem for unemployment offices.

A glitch in the system is marking multiple Florida citizens as owing money to the state for being overpaid for unemployment. Thus, when the Florida Lottery runs the name of a winner impacted by the flaw, they aren’t receiving their winnings.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity told WFLA that it is looking at each incident on a case-by-case basis.


Photo by Ievgenii Meyer via Shutterstock
Graphic from the Florida Lottery

About the Author

Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis

Lead Writer
A member of Catena Media since 2020, Drew Ellis is the Lead Writer at PlayiLottery, where he handles coverage of the online and retail lottery industry in the US. He previously spearheaded news content at PlayMichigan, where he covered one of the most prominent online lottery industries in the US — among the many other aspects of Michigan's sprawling iGaming market. You can email him at [email protected].
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