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Lottery Winners Leave Behind $800 Million Dollars

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Most of us dream about winning the lottery.  If that’s the dream, then the greatest nightmare would be to win the lottery and forget to pick up the prize.  Believe it or not, this happens all the time.  Everyone is so focused on getting the big prize that they can sometimes forget about the little ones.

It turns out that many lottery winners never go to claim their prizes. Two people may have been the Powerball Jackpot winners on Wednesday, but those who win second prizes of one million dollars may never come to claim their rewards. The U.S. Lottery brought in $40 billion dollars in prizes last year. According to Chuck Scott, the executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association, somewhere around $800 million dollars in prizes went unclaimed.

“Those 66 millionaire winning tickets were spread across 27 states. But about 2% of those second-prize winners — one or two individuals — will probably never come forward.

“It’s important that everyone check their numbers, even if they know they didn’t win the jackpot,” Strutt said. Almost all the lottery jackpots are collected, he said. But dozens of second-prize Powerball tickets will never be cashed in over the course of a year. Illinois has a $1 million winning ticket from March that still hasn’t been claimed. Likewise, many people who win the $250,000 second prize for Mega Millions will fail to come forward.

There are a total of 8.9 million winning tickets from Wednesday night’s drawing, although 8.8 million of those won $8 or less. Total prizes for winning tickets, excluding the two jackpot winners, were $131.5 million.

Related: Where $65 billion in lottery ticket sales goes

“It doesn’t shock me,” said Strutt. “There are significant number of people buying tickets who don’t know there are secondary prizes. And when we get a big prize like $550 milllion, many people buy tickets who haven’t bought before.”

In addition to the players who don’t realize that there is more than one prize, many simply lose interest once they hear the winning ticket was bought in another state, or that there was no jackpot winner.

Rules differ between states, but winners generally have 6 to 12 months collect their prizes. Prize money that isn’t claimed goes back to the state governments that profit off the lottery games, or to fund future prizes.”


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