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Saunders collects $1Mlottery prize a year later

A Penhold woman is now $1 million richer having recently cashed in a lottery ticket she knew last February was the game's top prizewinner. "I'm still processing everything. It's still sinking in even now," said Beth Saunders.

A Penhold woman is now $1 million richer having recently cashed in a lottery ticket she knew last February was the game's top prizewinner.

"I'm still processing everything. It's still sinking in even now," said Beth Saunders.

The Penhold woman purchased an eight-number combination Western 649 for the Feb. 6, 2010 draw from the town's Fas Gas station.

She knew she won $1 million a day later when she checked the numbers and matched all six. Because it was an eight-number combination ticket, she also won an additional $6,750.

"I'm like most people, I couldn't believe it at first. There was shock for a couple of months; a happy kind of shock," she said.

Rather than collecting her winnings right away, Saunders chose to wait to claim her prize.

"One million dollars is a lot of money and I didn't want my life to change. I don't want people to treat me differently and I don't want to treat people differently. I want to keep grounded."

Western 649 players have a year from the draw date to claim winning tickets, said Kevin van Egdom, a Western Canada Lottery Corporation spokesperson.

Saunders waited for nearly a year before notifying lottery officials of her winning ticket.

"It's not common but it does happen," said van Egdom.

He said in most cases winners collect their prizes within a few weeks of draws.

"A lot of people don't wait a year because who can wait knowing they've got that much money coming to them?" he said.

There have been cases where winners wait a few months before collecting their winnings to allow the news "to sink in" he said, or for a more opportune time.

"There was a winner who waited a few months for the kids to get out of school," he said.

Then there's cases where "someone was using (the winning ticket) as a bookmark" or forgot to check the numbers

In Saunders' case, van Egdom said she knew she was a winner but deliberately chose to wait.

Lottery officials verifed through computer checks that Saunders' number combination on her ticket was in fact the winning combination for the draw. They also conduct interviews to ensure the prize is paid to the right person.

"Once we're confident, then we issue the cheque."

Van Egdom said there's no worry about the lottery corporation not having the money to pay out prizes, even if it is a year later from the draw date.

"It's not like we have to make sure the vault is full," he said, laughing.

Between January 2010 and December 2010, 53 prizes of $1 million or more were awarded totalling $260 million.

Saunders said she's not planning to do anything "too drastic" with her windfall, but said there might be a trip to Australia in the future.