Unclaimed Mega Millions Brings Nearly $700K Boost To PA Lottery Fund

What happens when a massive, multistate lottery prize goes unclaimed? The answer, which brought a surprise $678,000 bonus to Pennsylvania last month, is that the unclaimed payout gets divided among participating states.

A similar rule is in place for several other notable lottery draw games, which ultimately results in a portion of the winnings landing in the PA Lottery Fund that benefits older Pennsylvania residents.

The latest example of the unclaimed lottery policy arrived last month. A winning $36 million Mega Millions ticket that was never claimed was divided between participating states based on the number of tickets sold for the drawing in each location. In the end, it gave Pennsylvania an unexpected almost $700,000 in funds after the numbers were run.

Pennsylvania Lottery aims to have every prize properly claimed

The winning Mega Millions ticket was sold in Jacksonville, Florida. But when it wasn’t claimed, it provided a bonus to every state involved in the interstate lottery.

According to Pennsylvania state Treasurer Stacy Garrity, an unclaimed Mega Millions or Powerball prize is extremely rare. It hadn’t happened in more than five years before the recent Mega Millions mystery. According to WITF, Garrity said:

“I’m assuming maybe they didn’t check their ticket, or maybe they lost their ticket. Or probably never realized that they won.”

In Pennsylvania, numerous efforts are made to ensure that lottery prizes are claimed by their respective winners.

Pennsylvania Lottery Press Secretary Ewa Swope told PlayiLottery:

“We never want anyone to miss out on cashing a winning ticket, especially one as large as the roughly $36 million Mega Millions jackpot that went unclaimed last year. That’s why we remind the public about expiring winning tickets that were sold in Pennsylvania before they expire by issuing a press release.”

Swope also noted that there are extended time periods allowed for each lottery game that give players ample opportunities to claim their prize. Those include:

  • PICK games, Treasure Hunt, Cash 5, Match 6 Lotto, Powerball, and Mega Millions: Winnings can be collected up to one year from the drawing date.
  • Scratch-off: Prizes can be collected up to one year from the game’s end-sale date.
  • Fast Play: Tickets expire one year from the ticket purchase date.

While some lotteries provide claiming windows of only 90 to 180 days, Pennsylvania’s lengthy timeline can certainly be considered player-friendly.

Powerball, Cash4Life, and other draw games share similar unclaimed prize policies

Other popular lottery draw games such as Powerball, Cash4Life, Lucky4Life, and Lotto America operate in a similar way to Mega Millions. If jackpots go unclaimed, participating state lotteries receive a portion of the prize based on the tickets sold.

Unclaimed prizes other than the jackpot may also go into prize pools to help fund future games.

PA Lottery paid out over $3 billion in traditional prizes during FY23

In fiscal year 2022-2023, the Pennsylvania Lottery delivered more than $3.3 billion in traditional lottery game winnings.

So what happens if you are the lucky one who hits the jackpot?

Swope recommends the following:

  • Always first, sign your ticket.
  • Consider contacting a financial expert/planner or an attorney.
  • Claim your prize.

She added:

“By law, unclaimed, expired Pennsylvania Lottery prizes remain in the Pennsylvania Lottery Fund and are used to support programs benefiting older Pennsylvanians. These programs include property tax and rent rebates, transportation, care services, prescription assistance, and local services including senior centers and meals.”

Since the first PA Lottery ticket was sold in 1972, the fund has provided more than $35.1 billion to support these programs.


Photo by Nam Y. Huh / AP

About the Author

Nathan Frederick

Nathan Frederick

Nathan Frederick is a graduate of Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and has over two decades of experience in the sports and gaming industries. His work includes digital and print media, numerous podcast appearances, and more than 1,000 published bylines. He has also authored three books, one of which launched as an Amazon No. 1 New Release. You can email him at [email protected].
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