AUSTIN -- Imagine winning $12 million and not realizing it until it's too late.

Texas Lottery officials didn't want to see someone lose all that money, so they kept their offices open until 6 p.m. Monday, an hour later than usual, hoping the Lotto Texas winner would finally redeem their ticket.

These days, lady luck is on Mary Switzwer's side.

"We had a lucky weekend, we kept finding lucky parking spots," Switzer said. Switzer and her friend then decided to buy a scratch-off ticket and won a thousand bucks. She couldn't wait to go to Texas Lottery headquarters and collect the money.

"We got the winning ticket yesterday [Sunday], and I'm down here the next morning," she said. Switzer says she wouldn't be able to wait six months to collect millions, and can't imagine anyone who could.

The Texas Lottery Commission says the person with a winning $12 million Lotto Texas ticket may have run out of time to claim the prize.

The ticket was sold January first at a convenience store in League City, near Houston.

The retailer that sold the ticket got a check in March for more than $121,000.

A ticket-holder loses any claim to a prize 180 days after the drawing.

Gary Grief is Executive Director of the Texas Lottery Commission. He really wants the winner to find their ticket and bring it in.

"We're hoping that it's sitting underneath a couch cushion somewhere, maybe on the floorboard of their car," Grief sad.

Since 1995, more than $837 million in lottery winnings have gone unclaimed.

"Every year we average more than $50 million in unclaimed prizes here at the lottery, but that's mainly the small scratch ticket prizes that comprise that amount," Grief said.

Over the years, less than a dozen major lottery winners have neglected to collect their jackpots.

So what happens to those unclaimed dollars?

"It does go back to state coffers in the form of money to the Foundation School fund," said Grief.

If the winner put that ticket in the mail, and it's postmarked by Monday, the Lottery would honor their claim, and pay out the money.

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