What Happens to Unclaimed Powerball Winnings?

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  • Author:
    Shaun Greer
  • Published:

Sometimes, the winning Powerball ticket goes unrewarded, and this is what happens to the unclaimed Powerball winnings.

Sure, it’s easy to highlight the Powerball jackpot winners and talk about the success stories of everyday folks winning it big. But what happens when a winning ticket gets sold, and no one comes forward? There’s more to it than you might think, and it certainly happens more often than you’re probably aware. Unclaimed Powerball winnings do have a place in the system. And today, we’ll share the stories behind the unclaimed winnings, including what happens to those funds.

The Official Returning of Funds

According to the official Powerball FAQs, Powerball Grand Prizes that go unclaimed get returned. In fact, these thousands and sometimes millions get returned to all lotteries based on the proportion of their sales in the run of the draw. The various lotteries then distribute the funds, based on specific jurisdictions and legal parameters, to the general fund or other games. That’s the official path of the Powerball jackpot that sits idly past the claim date.

Some of the Largest Unclaimed Jackpots on Record

There are quite a few stories of Powerball and other jackpots going unclaimed. One of the largest unclaimed winnings went back into the fold in June of 2011. The ticket was sold in Georgia and was worth $77 million. There was an Arizona winning ticket that lapsed in 1999, returning $4 million. A $68 million winning ticket was sold on Christmas Eve in New York, back in 2002, but never claimed.

Visiting the Powerball website, you’ll find a pretty substantial list of unclaimed Powerball prizes. The winning tickets have been documented, and some are still available to claim for those who have them. Even tickets recently sold in 2020, ranging in value from $50,000 to $1 million, have gone unclaimed. From Missouri to Colorado to Kentucky, there are some folks out there who might want to dig through the family junk drawer, between the car seats, and to the bottom of the purse.

How Powerball Winnings Go Unclaimed

You could be wondering how on earth a winning Powerball ticket, especially worth $150,000 or more, can go unclaimed. It happens more than you think. Sometimes, players don’t realize they’ve won. Whether they forgot to check the winning numbers or glazed over their pick to see they maybe didn’t hit the jackpot without verifying, winning tickets end up going unclaimed. But there are horror stories too, where individuals lost, misplaced, or accidentally threw away their tickets before checking to see if they’ve won.

How Long Do You Have to Claim Your Jackpot?

It’s not uncommon for Powerball jackpot winners to wait before eventually coming forward to claim their winnings. Some take the time to set up blind trusts allowing them to claim anonymously. One California man wanted to wait to claim his ticket so he could pick up his official check on April Fool’s Day. Others cite needing time to consult with their financial advisors and attorneys before coming forward. To know how long you have, it’s best to check with your state’s Powerball rules. The time to come forward can range from 90 days to one year. You don’t want to have a winning set of numbers and wait too long before claiming your prize money.

Seeing just how many millions of dollars go back into the system due to unclaimed Powerball winnings is enough of a cautionary tale for those who play Powerball. Double and even triple check your numbers. Take your ticket to a qualified retailer to have the ticket scanned, and be sure to sign it before handing it over. And verify how much time you have in your state to claim your jackpot prize. You don’t want to miss a deadline and forgo your winnings, regardless of how substantial they may be.

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