The lottery’s hidden secret: Billions in unclaimed prizes

By Personal FinanceFOXBusiness

Lottery: How to win the jackpot

Seven-time lottery game grand prize winner Richard Lustig tips on his advice to win the Mega Million and Powerball jackpots.

Whether you win or lose the lottery jackpots this week, you may still want to check your ticket because billions of dollars in prizes go unclaimed each year.

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Americans forego about $2 billion in total unclaimed prize money annually, the founder of mobile lottery app Lottery.com told FOX Business. And the higher the drawing, the higher the likelihood there will be multiple, smaller unclaimed prizes.

In 2016 alone, in California unclaimed winnings registered at more than $24 million, according to state gaming officials. While winners in Michigan raked in more than $2 billion in claimed prizes during fiscal 2017, lotto players in the state missed out on winnings worth $27.6 million. Meanwhile, in the state of New York, unclaimed lottery winnings for fiscal 2016 through fiscal 2017 were $74 million. In the year prior, they were more than $103 million.

Sometimes jackpot winners never claim their prizes. In 2002, a Mega Millions windfall worth $63 million went unclaimed in New York.

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What happens to the unclaimed prize amounts varies from state to state. For example, in Michigan, the money goes to the state’s School Aid Fund, the Michigan lottery’s beneficiary. In California, the money also goes toward supporting the state’s public school system. In other cases, states will put the unclaimed money back into the prize pool to increase payouts for future games, according to the National Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

The amount of time allotted for claiming a winning prize varies among states, however it typically ranges from six months to one year.

Friday’s Mega Millions drawing is for $970 million, while Powerball jackpot has risen above $400 million. The IRS will automatically take 25 percent in federal withholding taxes from the winnings, and in some states winners will owe even more.

This story has been updated.

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