Unclaimed lottery jackpots: It sounds unrealistic but the fact is that every year dozens of hefty jackpots are left unclaimed. Unclaimed lottery winnings have been on the rise. In most of these cases the efforts to locate the rightful owners of these lotteries have gone in vain. In 2005, Illinois reported $14 million of unclaimed lottery winnings. Indiana reported more than $5 million of unclaimed lottery ticket in the same year. The state of Massachusetts reported $4.6 million of unclaimed lottery money a few years earlier. Between 2008 and 2009, Georgia reported almost $45 millions of unclaimed lottery money.
Connecticut has not had a winning ticket expire without a winner for nearly a decade. Any unclaimed prize is referred to as the Clarence Jackson Jr. jackpot in some regions. Mr. Jackson, three days late in turning in the winning $5.8 million ticket in 1996, never received a penny. Of the 1,100 jackpots, Connecticut has paid out since the lottery began here in 1972, 11 have gone unclaimed.
Every state has its own stipulated time frame for the validity of a Lottery ticket. The east coast states like Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey offers a claim period of 1 year to its lottery players for claiming their prize money. Some other states have a validity time frame of even three to six months.
According to a USA Today survey, almost half a billion dollars of unclaimed lottery money was reported last year. Minnesota reported the expiration of a $1.5 million lottery ticket in January, while Oregon reported the expiration of $7.5 million lottery winning in June. Florida has announced that a $3 million worth lottery ticket is going to expire on Christmas Eve.
Dawn Nettles, editor of The Lotto Report, a newsletter that covers lotteries, blames lottery practices for many of the unclaimed prizes. “It’s so frustrating that I can hardly talk about it,” she says. Computer scanning errors cost lottery players prizes, she says. A very glaring case of computer enabled lottery check was detected in Ohio in 2006. The computer failed to validate a $267 million winning ticket. Toledo tax attorney Mark Mockensturm, who represented the winner, confirms the story. “The computer system at the lottery office in Cleveland didn’t read the encoded ink,” he says. The ticket was validated in other ways. “The size of the jackpot caused a hiccup in the computer program,” Ohio Lottery spokeswoman Marie Kilbane says. The software was fixed, and the ticket was paid. “All’s well,” she says.
Lotteries publicize big unclaimed prizes before they expire. “We tell people: ‘Check your tickets! Hey, you never know,’ “New York Lottery spokesman John Charleson says. So, if you are a regular buyer of Lotto and other types of Lotteries, it makes sense to establish a simple check list for validating and monitoring the lottery numbers . So, for every lottery purchase, this check list is performed before the ticket is discarded. In case you have older lottery tickets, it is crucial that the list of unclaimed lottery tickets is scanned in every state where the purchase was made. This will ensure that only the unredeemable lottery tickets are discarded.