“Life is a lottery that we’ve already won. But most people have not cashed in their tickets." - Louise L. Hay
While this quotation by Louise Hay bears reference to the fact that life is a lottery, it is also relevant to the purchase of a lottery ticket, selecting the winning numbers, and not cashing in the ticket. Suffice to say; it does not matter whether you have won anything or how much you have won. The millions of dollars in unclaimed lottery jackpots and prizes is the reason why you must always check your lottery ticket after each draw. After all, it is a good idea to cash in your lottery ticket if you have won any money.
By way of adding value to the reasons why you must always check your lottery tickets after each draw, let’s consider some of the world’s biggest unclaimed lottery jackpots.
Note: There is a predefined time limit between selecting the winning numbers and when you can claim your prize. For instance, the Mega Millions jackpot has a time limit of 6 months (180 days). In this scenario of the October 2018 Mega Millions jackpot draw, the jackpot winner who won $1.5 billion only claimed the jackpot prize in March 2019, 132 days after winning the jackpot. A close call for the winner, 48 days before the expiry date. (Source: CNBC.com)
2002 – Mega Millions, $68 million (USD)
This is the third biggest unclaimed jackpot in the Mega Millions jackpot history. While it is not the biggest prize ever won, it is still a substantial amount. This winning ticket was purchased in Queens, New York City, for a December 2002 draw. The expiry date arrived and went without the winner coming forward and presenting their original lottery ticket. (Source: NYPost.com)
This story has an interesting twist in the tail in that a whole year later, a man contacted the Mega Millions lottery operator insisting that he was this draw’s lucky winner. He claimed that he’d been trying to claim this amount since the winning numbers were announced. It stands to reason that he was unsuccessful. Consequently, he sued the lottery company for the total jackpot amount ($68 million) and interest. His basis for not claiming the jackpot prize before it expired is that his lottery ticket went missing in a “non-retrievable” scenario.
As an aside, this situation provides the perfect reason for signing up with an online lottery platform like Multilotto to ensure that you never lose your paper lottery ticket and can always cash in your virtual ticket should you choose the winning numbers.
2002, Powerball, $51.7 million
This unclaimed prize was won by a player who bought the winning ticket in Indiana, USA. The total jackpot prize was $103 million, with two players sharing the jackpot prize. One of the two ticket holders claimed half the jackpot, but the second player did not. In an effort to find the winner, the Indiana lottery office embarked on an advertising campaign to find this ticket holder. But it was to no avail. Thus, the $51.7 million was donated to charity. (Source: ABC News)
Incidentally, this was the first time since the start of the Powerball lottery in 1992 that a jackpot prize went unclaimed.
2003 – Mega Millions, $46 million
The $46 million jackpot drawn in 2003 was never claimed. The winning ticket holder bought the ticket in New York but never came forward to claim it. It is perhaps interesting to note that New York state has the highest number of unclaimed jackpot prizes than any other US state. This is partly because the state ran its own lottery, the New York State Lotto, before amalgamating with the Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries. (Source: megamillions.com)
2005 – UK National Lottery, £9.4 million
The UK National Lotto made headlines in 2005 when they went on the hunt for this jackpot prize winner. The lottery operator determined that the winning ticket was bought in Doncaster, Yorkshire, so the local investigative reporters also joined the search. History has it that even the town crier was involved. However, the ticket holder was never found. (Source: Multilotto)
Outside of the 2012 Euromillions unclaimed jackpot, this jackpot amount of £9.4 million remains one of Europe's highest unclaimed lottery jackpots.
2006 – UK National Lottery, £1.6 million
This jackpot prize is unique in that there were two eligible winning tickets, and neither player (ticket owner) came forward to collect their prize. The players were from Glasgow and Warwickshire, in Scotland and England, respectively. Once the period to claim the monies expired, these funds went to support good causes in the UK. While this is not the most considerable unclaimed amount in the UK, it is undoubtedly the most unique in that neither player came forward to collect their winnings. (Source: Multilotto)
It is perhaps worth noting that the 2012 Euromillions jackpot amount of £64 million is the highest unclaimed jackpot amount in the UK.
2006 - Mega Millions, $31 million
The New York-based winner of this jackpot prize never came forward to cash in the ticket. The lottery operator traced the winner to the Queens borough in New York City but reached a dead end. As will all other unclaimed prize monies, this money was donated to charity. (Source: inquirer.com)
2011 – Powerball, $77 million
The winning ticket holder for this June 2011 draw played this lottery at a truck stop in Georgia, USA. The 180 days allowed to claim this prize expired, and the money was donated to charity. What makes this unclaimed prize notable is that it is the state’s biggest unclaimed jackpot since the inception of the lottery in 1993. (Source: inquirer.com)
2012 – Euromillions, £64 million (GBP)
This unclaimed jackpot is the highest unclaimed jackpot in the history of the lottery. The winning ticket was purchased in Hertfordshire, UK, and was never claimed. The Euromillions lottery operator sent out numerous appeals and set up a billboard campaign, but the winner never came forward to claim this money. Sadly, the jackpot expired 180 days after the draw date, and the money was donated to National Lottery Good Causes, which gives unclaimed funds to various charities around the UK. (Source: The Guardian)
2016 - SuperLotto Plus, $63 million
In 2016, the $63 million jackpot prize in the Californian-based SuperLotto Plus lottery draw was not claimed. This jackpot went unclaimed for 180 days. Subsequently, a man came forward to say that he had the winning ticket and tried to cash it but was denied because the paper ticket was too damaged. He sued the lottery operator, but the case was dismissed because the lottery company produced evidence that the plaintiff (or the alleged winner) did not buy the ticket at the store he said he did. His ticket was purchased at a different location and time. (Source: mashable.com)
When aggregated, these 9 unclaimed jackpot prizes total a stunning $437 million (USD). The good news with these unclaimed prizes is that they are distributed to various charities and NPOs to uplift the local communities. However, on the other hand, this staggering total must be the rationale behind rigorously checking your lottery ticket after every draw. And if you buy paper-based tickets, it is essential to keep them in a safe place so that they don’t get lost or destroyed.
However, it makes sense to bet on the outcome of online lotteries in our post-modern world. In this way, the service provider or the online platform that you bought a line from will keep an electronic copy of your order on your online profile. And, without going into too much detail, backups are made at the end of every day, so if there is ever a problem with the computer servers that run the online lottery platform’s software, the backups are restored, making doubly sure that you never miss collecting your jackpot winnings because of a lost or damaged ticket.