Reminder: Winning the lottery only works if, y’know, you actually claim the money

Why $2B in lottery prizes goes unclaimed in the US every year — and what happens next.

It’s not unusual for lottery winners to take some time to claim their prizes.

Reminder: Winning the lottery only works if, y’know, you actually claim the money

After all, conventional wisdom suggests strategizing with financial planners and lawyers before collecting a life-altering fortune.

But there is a deadline for redeeming a winning ticket, and it’s truly wild how regularly those dates pass without anyone turning up.

  • An estimated $2B/yr in winnings go uncollected in the US.
  • Lucrative unclaimed tickets this century include $77m, $68m, $51.7m, and $46m jackpots.

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. And ouch.

What gives?

Lottery execs told Parade how most winnings go un-won:

  • Tickets are lost.
  • Results are misread.
  • Winners forget to check results — or that they bought a ticket.

A Missouri man advanced the “not realizing they’ve won” narrative last month, sitting on a $1m Powerball ticket three whole months after his numbers were drawn.

(Don’t even get us started on the Michigan man who forgot to check his ticket, eventually found out he won — then forgot to check how much before pocketing the $390k he left on the shelf for nine months.)

What happens to all that unclaimed money?

If you’re asking, “So, can I have it?” the answer is… kind of, yeah? At least in a broad, civic sense.

  • Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots are returned to state lottery funds relative to tickets sold.
  • Every state handles things differently, but most have public causes earmarked for surplus lottery funds, ranging from school aid to environmental projects.
  • Ten states use funds to support compulsive gambling programs.

Note: None of the info about winning lottery tickets comes from personal experience, despite very much wanting that to be the case.

Topics: Gambling

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