TowerGroup estimates that of the $97 billion worth of plastic gift cards purchased in 2007, nearly $8 billion has gone unused. Just what happens to that pile of cash has become a matter of some controversy. A lot of states—roughly half—claim that at least part of the unspent balances should go to them under their unclaimed-property laws. Other states let that excess dribble back onto retailers' income statements under varying conditions. Naturally, stores issuing the cards are scrambling to ensure the most advantageous accounting.