Would-Be $5 Million Powerball Jackpot Winner Bob Palese

If you have ever won a lottery jackpot, then you know the pressure that accompanies trying to keep your winning ticket safe until you manage to claim your prize. Sometimes, however, it is simply not possible to keep a winning ticket out of harm's way—especially when you do not yet know that it is a winning ticket. Such is the tale of would-be Delaware Lottery winner Bob Palese. In this article, we will look at Bob’s win and how, unfortunately, it all went wrong.

Damaged Powerball TicketWho Is Bob Palese?

Robert Palese—who is more commonly known as Bob Palese—was your average lottery player who dreamt of winning a life-changing amount on his favourite lottery. Not much is known about Bob from the time of his win except that he was living Bear, Delaware, and was 48 years of age when his dreams hitting it big on the US Powerball finally came true.

The Lucky One in Five

Bob was on his way home one day when he stopped off at Valentina Liquors in Bear to make some purchases. Amongst those purchases were five Powerball lottery tickets. Each of these tickets had numbers carefully selected by Bob and filled out on a payslip. Not thinking anything more of it, Bob carried on with his life knowing that he had five tickets ready and waiting for the draw to be held on March 21, 2003.

The Unlucky Lucky Man

Bob did not give any thought to his lottery tickets again until he heard on the radio a few days after the draw that the $5 million jackpot had been won but was yet to be claimed. Thinking that perhaps he had won, Bob began to search for his tickets.

After searching his entire home inside and out, Bob had a sudden realisation of where his tickets were—in the pocket of the jeans he wore on the day he purchased them. While remembering where the tickets should have brought some joy to Bob, instead it brought dread. The same jeans in whose pocket he thought the tickets were in had recently been through the washer and the dryer. Unfortunately, after Bob checked the jeans, his fears were confirmed, and he realised that his tickets had been destroyed.

Thankfully, Bob still had the payslip stub from the purchase of the tickets. The payslip listed the numbers that he had chosen for all five lines of play and stated that the tickets were purchased. The more excellent news was, however, that Bob’s feeling that he could be a winner was correct. He had correctly guessed all of the winning numbers (9, 13, 19, 24, 27, and 35) and was the sole winner of $5 million.

Pleading His Case

Bob quickly wrote to the Delaware Lottery offices and explained the fact that he had won but that his ticket had tragically been destroyed. To back up his claim, Bob offered proof that he still had the payslip he used to purchase the ticket and the additional four tickets that went with it.

Bob soon heard back from the lottery and was told that he would need to wait one year to see if anybody else came forward to claim the prize. If in that time the prize remained unclaimed, then the lottery would investigate his case and see if he would be able to claim the prize. The claim date for the prize that the lottery set was March 21, 2004.

The General Fund Replenishment and an Argument

About 11 months after getting his reply from the lottery, Bob was reading the newspaper when something struck his eye: the $5 million Powerball jackpot had been transferred into the State’s General Fund since no winner ever came forward to claim the prize!

Bob realised that he might have just lost his money and immediately contacted the lottery office again. After acquiescing to the request of the lottery office to again explain his predicament, Bob was hopeful that he would receive his prize. After all, the lottery could verify that the winning ticket was purchased alongside Bob’s other four tickets by merely checking their system records.

However, on April 13, 2004, Bob received news that Delaware Lottery Office director Wayne Lemons had denied his claim. Lemons denied the request quoting the Delaware Lottery Rules and Regulations code, which stated that all winners are required to produce the actual winning ticket of a draw to claim a prize.

Suspicious-Looking JudgeOne Court, Two Courts

Bob quickly filed a lawsuit against the Delaware Lottery and Wayne Lemons at Chancery Court in Wilmington. His lawsuit stated that the lottery did not do enough investigation into whether or not he was the rightful winner of the lottery draw and, in so doing, was defrauding him of his prize. As mentioned earlier, he stood on the fact that the lottery should easily be able to trace when the winning ticket was purchased and what other tickets it was purchased with. He would, in return, provide the payslip with all five tickets listed—something that is incredibly unlikely to occur by chance.

While Bob may have been hopeful that he would win his case, things did not go his way when the court ruled that the lottery was entirely within their rights to deny him his claim because he was unable to produce the winning ticket. The case was dismissed, and Bob was left with legal fees and still no winnings.

Never one to give up, Bob escalated the lawsuit and pushed the case to the Delaware Supreme Court. Filing for the same charges as the original lawsuit, Bob added to the list of allegations that the actions of the lottery and Wayne Lemons resulted in the unjust enrichment of the State. He added this clause because the unclaimed $5 million was paid into the State’s General Fund after a year had passed from the date of the draw.

Bob’s hopes of the Supreme Court granting him a sympathetic ear was quickly dispelled when the court agreed with the original ruling. As a basis for their verdict, the court cited the Delaware Constitution ‘Lottery Exception’, the Lottery Act, and the Lottery Regulations. While the ‘Lottery Exception’ did not really have anything specific to say about the matter, both the Lottery Act and the Lottery Regulations clearly stated that lottery winners must be in possession of, and be able to physically present, a winning ticket to claim a prize.


Like Martyn Tott's story, Bob Palese’s is certainly a sad one. Not only did he have to live through the excitement of winning a massive jackpot that would change his life forever, but he also had to live through the loss of having that jackpot wrenched from his grasp. The worst part of all of this must have been knowing that the big win was taken by merely placing a pair of jeans in the wash.

So, if there is one thing that we can all learn from Bob, aside from the fact that the lottery tends to have rather stringent rules when it comes to claiming prizes, is that we should always protect our lottery tickets. After all, we never know when we will need to present on to claim a prize.  

Further Reading

In a stark contrast to Bob’s situation, a lottery winner in Canada had purchased lottery tickets and completely forgot all about them—including where she put them. Despite this and the fact that Kathryn Jones never even checked to see if her numbers had won, investigators from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation tracked her down themselves months later to tell her the shocking news that she had won a $50 million jackpot. Whether this is the difference between winning the lottery in the US and Canada, or just an incredibly stroke of luck for Kathryn, we’ll leave up to you to decide.

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