Ever Wondered What Happens to Unclaimed Prizes?

Where do all the millions go?
  1. Home
  2. News
  3. Ever Wondered What Happens To Unclaimed Prizes
Millions in lottery winnings go unclaimed every year
  • Author:
    Shaun Greer
  • Published:

It’s not unusual for nobody to hit a Powerball jackpot on a Wednesday night. Yet, there are millions of tickets out there.

The question is, why do so many of them go unclaimed?

There are billions of dollars of unclaimed lottery prizes floating around. In the 12 months ending June 2017, there was an estimated $2.89 billion in unclaimed lottery prizes alone.

Many of the unclaimed prizes are small. After all, Powerball has a prize of a couple of dollars just for picking the right Powerball number.

Yet there are secondary prizes worth $1 million and sometimes more.

So Much Remains Unclaimed

In California back in 2016, there was over $24 million in unclaimed prizes, while in the fiscal year of 2017, Michigan raked in over $27.6 million in unclaimed winnings. Meanwhile in New York, unclaimed winnings for the 2016 – 2017 year amassed to a staggering $74 million. The year before that, they summed up to a mega $103 million.

And then there are the times when jackpot winners don’t claim their prizes. In one Mega Millions windfall in 2012, a whopping $62 million went unclaimed in the state of New York.

So, Where Does All the Money Go?

We know that takings from the sale of lottery tickets go into each state’s coffers. But what exactly do the states do with all that unclaimed prize money?

It’s fairly difficult question to answer, since it’s nearly impossible to track the funds in state budgets. However, we do know that just about every US state allocates a small portion to be used to fund programmes to help people with gambling problems.

Other than that, unclaimed prize money is used in a myriad of ways.

In some states, the money goes into a general fund, which means it’s available for nearly anything, from roads and schools to the police force. In other states, the money is designated for particular needs. In fact, fourteen US states allocate 100 percent of unclaimed prizes to fund education, whereas others use it for fund college scholarships.

Most Goes to Education

While what happens to unclaimed winnings varies from one state to the next, most concentrate on funding education.

For instance, in Michigan, unclaimed prizes go to the state’s School Aid Fund, which is that state’s lottery beneficiary. It’s similar in California, where prize money goes towards supporting the state’s public school system.

In other states, the unclaimed money is ploughed back into the prize pool to increase payouts in future draws.

If you’re wondering how long it takes for unclaimed winnings to be allocated to charities, organisations and education, it’s worth noting that the time allotted for claiming a prize varies from one state to the next. On average, the time limit ranges from six months to a year.

Why Do Winning Tickets Go Unclaimed?

So why exactly do billions of dollars of lottery prizes go unclaimed each and every year? It’s really simple. It often happens that lottery ticket holders don’t realize they have won secondary prizes. Those are the prizes dished out for tickets that have a few, but not all, of the draw’s numbers. The winnings can range from just a few dollars for picking the right Powerball number to over $1 million.

In one Powerball draw, for example, there were prizes worth a whopping $135 million because 9.4 million other ticket buyers didn’t win the big jackpot.

According to experts, in 2015, 114 prizes worth over $1 million went unclaimed. It seems to be that people often forget or don’t bother to check if they have won any other prizes on a particular draw.

For example, when the lottery rolls over when no one wins the jackpot, they don’t bother checking to see if they have won a secondary prize – which could still be in the millions.

Could You Be a Millionaire?

One point really worth pondering is that buying Powerball tickets online makes it almost impossible for you to forget about them or to lose what might well be a jackpot winner!

When last did you double check your tickets? You could just be sitting on a sizeable amount of winnings.

We use cookies to personalize content and ads, and to analyze our traffic. By using our site, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.