Some states return unclaimed prize money to the prize pool, use it to subsidize lottery games or promotions, or give it away. Kentucky for example, gives its unclaimed winnings to education programs.
In 2003, a man named Fritzner Bechette came forward in Brooklyn claiming that he had won the Mega Millions drawing on Christmas Eve in 2002. He asked to be paid the 63 million-dollar jackpot, plus interest.
The Biggest Unclaimed Lottery Prize in the World
It’s not uncommon for big Powerball or Mega Millions jackpots to go unclaimed. But a much bigger prize, a $1 billion lottery ticket, has yet to find its owner. It was purchased at a convenience store in Des Plaines, Illinois. It’s a long shot that the winner will ever come forward. They might even choose to remain anonymous, thanks to Illinois’ laws that allow lottery winners to do so.
Every year, billions of dollars in prizes — from scratchers to major draw games — expire. It’s more common than you might think, too. In 2018 alone, it was estimated that more than $2 billion in lottery prizes went unclaimed.
A couple of years after winning a Mega Millions jackpot, an Oregon man called Joemel Panisa was cleaning his office and found an old ticket stashed in his desk drawer. He ended up winning $10 million. But it could have been much, much bigger. He’d missed out on interest payments if he’d claimed the ticket within the one-year deadline.
The Biggest Unclaimed Lottery Prize in the US
Despite countless media campaigns and billboards in the areas where the winning ticket was sold, no one ever came forward to claim a $31 million Mega Millions jackpot that went unclaimed on August 1, 2006. This is just the latest of many huge lottery prizes that have gone untouched since the world’s first lottery winner, Jack Whittaker, died in 2002.
Winning lottery tickets have 180 days to make a claim before the prize goes stale. If that time passes without anyone stepping forward, the prize money is returned to the state. In most states, that money is earmarked for good causes such as education.
Unfortunately, the people who win large lottery prizes don’t always know what to do with their money. Several lottery winners have turned to drugs and alcohol, squandered their fortunes, or given away the money they won. Often, these stories are cautionary tales that tell us the lottery is not a magic ticket to a better life.
The Biggest Unclaimed Lottery Prize in Europe
European lottery players have the opportunity to win some of the biggest jackpots in history. But sadly, some of those jackpots go unclaimed.
One such example was a prize worth more than EUR 200 million that rolled over in December of 2023. Unfortunately, the winner did not come forward and opted to remain anonymous.
This was the biggest European lottery prize that went unclaimed to date. A lot of different campaigns were launched to find the lucky ticket holder but, in the end, nobody came forward. This EuroMillions prize lasted 180 days before it expired and, once that happened, the winning lottery ticket was shared between two individuals that won all 7 numbers right. The money will now be used for projects that the National Lottery funds throughout the country. It also includes any interest that the prize had accrued during those 180 days. That makes it the second largest mutual lottery win in history!
The Biggest Unclaimed Lottery Prize in Canada
If you buy a lottery ticket and don’t claim it within the allotted time period, you forfeit your prize money. That’s why it is important to check your tickets regularly.
In Canada, a winning Lotto Max ticket from last year’s draw has gone unclaimed. The prize is worth $70 million and expires in 180 days. OLG has launched a series of public awareness campaigns in the hopes that it will jog the winner’s memory and prompt them to come forward.
The show is produced by High Five Content, the company behind Netflix documentary series Captive Audience and Spotify podcast Son of a Hitman, in partnership with Outside Magazine and Frick-Wright Productions. The film follows treasure hunter Darrell Seyler, who spent years attempting to find the Fenn treasure in Yellowstone National Park. The film is set to be released this fall. It is based on the true story of a man who risked everything in his search for riches.