What Happens to Unclaimed Lottery Tickets?

What would you do if you realized that you won a jackpot prize but didn’t claim your winnings in time? Unclaimed lottery tickets are from players who’ve won a massive jackpot but failed to come forward to collect their prize.

A perfect example is that of Martyn and Kay Tott who were dubbed the unluckiest couple in the UK. The Totts won a massive £182million Euromillions jackpot but didn’t claim their prize in time because they lost their lottery ticket. So what happens to unclaimed lottery tickets and the cash prize from people that simply don’t realize they’ve won? Keep reading to find out.

What Happens to the Unclaimed Cash Prizes?

When no one comes forward to claim the jackpot cash prize the money typically goes back to the organizations that sold the tickets. However, this will depend on the country because lotteries have different rules and regulations.

For example, an unclaimed cash prize from Mega Millions will go back to the states that sold the tickets. On the other hand, unclaimed cash prizes from the UK’s National Lottery will be allocated to the National Lottery’s Good Causes Fund.

How Often Do Lottery Winnings Go Unclaimed?

According to CNN, since 2003 there have been 384 lottery winners from the US Powerball and Mega Millions. Since then there were only five unclaimed lottery tickets. But with many lotteries around the world winners soon realize they’ve won thanks to consistent advertising about unclaimed prizes in specific areas.

For example, in 2019 a player in Manchester, UK claimed his £1 million prize hours before the deadline.  However, in the UK between 2018 and 2019, £125.1 million in funds were raised because of unclaimed winnings.

How Much Money is Lost Due to Unclaimed Lottery Tickets?

Unclaimed lottery winnings can be a huge issue for lottery companies. The total of unclaimed lottery prizes can reach $3 billion in a 12 month period.

To give you an example, the largest jackpot to go unclaimed was from Florida. A $369.9 million prize was won by a ticket bought in Bonita Springs in 2020 but went unclaimed. In 2017 there were at least 167 prizes above $1 million that went unclaimed. 

The Reasons Why People Not Claim Their Lottery Tickets

There are many reasons why people may not claim their lottery tickets. Here are the most common reasons:

  • Some people lose their lottery tickets before they can claim.
  • Winners sometimes forget they’ve played so they never check the results or claim.
  • Winners may not believe that they’ve won and simply ignore the results.
  • Players may not claim their prize because they’re not allowed to remain anonymous.

How to Claim a Prize

Claiming prizes may be different depending on what country you live in. Most lotteries require you to sign the back of the ticket and then hand the ticket to the lottery organization. You will most likely have to prove your identity by showing the organization your identification documents. Additionally, you may have to fill out forms before your ticket gets validated. 

The claiming process will also be different if you’ve played online lotteries. However, claiming prizes may be easier when you play through online lottery sites. The advantage is you get notified of your winnings and you’ll be sent instructions on how to claim your prize.

In some countries such as the US, you can’t claim your prize anonymously. But the UK National Lottery and the Australian Lottery allow you to claim prizes anonymously.

What Are The Deadlines for Claiming a Lottery Prize?

The deadlines for claiming lottery prizes will depend on the country you live in and the lottery you play. Take a look at the table below to find out how many days you have to collect your prize.

Claiming a Lottery Prize By Country

Country Deadline
South Africa 365 days from the date of the draw.
New Mexico 90 days from the date of the draw.
China 60 days from the date of the draw.
Australia 365 days from the date of the draw.
Canada 365 days from the date of the draw
France 60 days from the date of the draw.
Germany 180 days from the date of the draw.
Spain 90 days from the date of the draw.

Claiming a Lottery Prize in the Most Popular Lotteries Around the World

If you want to play the most popular lotteries around the world then see the table below for deadlines on prize claims. Make sure you claim your prize before these deadlines if you win.

Lottery Deadline
SuperEnalotto 90 Days
US Powerball 180 Days
Mega Millions 180 Days
EuroMillions 180 Days
Oz Lotto 3 Years
Lotto Max 1 Year

Top 10 Biggest Unclaimed Lottery Prizes

  1. Florida Jackpot – $369.9 million
  2. EuroMillions – £64 million
  3. US Powerball Georgia – $77 million
  4. Superlotto – $63 million
  5. US Powerball New York – $68 million
  6. EuroMillions Hertfordshire – £63.8 Million
  7. US Powerball California – $63 million
  8. Mega Millions New York – $68 million
  9. SA Powerball Cape Town – R142 million
  10. SA Lotto – R23 million


How to check your lottery ticket?

You can check your lottery ticket results online or on any news website. Then check your numbers against the results to see if you have any matching results.

Where can you find lottery draw results?

You can find the lottery draw results on your national lottery website. Or you can check any news station’s website because they will also show the results from the latest draws. There are also lotteries that offer apps that you can download to keep up to date with results.

Where does the lottery draws take place?

This will depend on the country you live in. The draws for any national lottery will take place in the country the lottery organization operates in. For example, if you’re playing the UK National Lottery the draws are done in London. On the other hand, the US Powerball is held in Orlando.

What to do if missed the deadline for claiming your lottery winnings?

If you’ve missed the deadline to claim your lottery prize you won’t be able to claim your winnings. The lottery rules are absolute so you won’t get paid out any winnings if you don’t claim your prize within the specified grace period.

How to guarantee you will not lose a winning ticket?

When playing the lottery always keep your ticket in a safe place until the draw is over. Keep your tickets in a plastic slip bag and keep them in a bedside draw or in a cupboard where they won’t get damaged. 

Can you claim lost lottery tickets?

Yes, if you claim your prize before the deadline you can get your prize money even if you’ve lost your ticket. Some lotteries will investigate claims to the best of their ability so they can pay you your money.

Final Thoughts

Our advice to you is to always keep your lottery tickets safe until after the draw. Every time you buy a lottery ticket, check the draw results to ensure you’re not a winner before throwing your ticket away. You should also make sure that you don’t miss second chance lotteries because you may still have a chance of winning a prize.

It’s important to keep your lottery tickets in a safe place until the next draw takes place so that you don’t miss the opportunity of winning a jackpot prize!