DOES THE NUMBER combination 23, 31, 42, 50, 57 mean anything to you? That was the million-dollar winner in the Powerball game from Sept 26, 2015, purchased at the American Legion post in East Springfield.
Unfortunately for whoever had it, the deadline to cash it was Monday and it went unclaimed, meaning Massachusetts’ share of the $1 million went back into the state’s coffers. In fact, that money is just a fraction of the tens of millions of dollars that has gone unclaimed from the plethora of state Lottery games.
Under Lottery regulations, winning tickets must be cashed no later than one year from the date of the drawing or, in the case of scratch tickets, one year from the end of the game. In the last five fiscal years, more than $60.1 million dollars in winnings, or an average of $12 million a year, went unclaimed.
“It becomes net profit,” said Lottery spokesman Christian Teja. “It’s money we’ve taken in but it’s not something that we had to pay out.”
What’s unclear is why Massachusetts residents are not collecting their winnings. It may be that some prizes are so small that picking up the winnings is not worth the trouble. With big money games, novice players may not realize they can win a prize without hitting the jackpot. Winners may also just lose their ticket, or misplace it and not find it until the deadline has passed.
For the most part, though, unclaimed prizes are a matter of someone losing track of the ticket and not finding it in time to cash it in by the deadline, if they find it at all. In 2014, Dennis Cote of Ware cashed in a Lucky for Life ticket worth $25,000 a year for life just hours before it would have expired. Cote, who took the cash option for $390,000 before taxes, told Lottery officials he only learned a few months before that that he held a winning ticket and took his time to do some planning.
Whatever the reason, the unclaimed winnings add up. According to Lottery data, players of the Daily Numbers game are the most likely to leave their winnings behind. They failed to claim more than $15.7 million since fiscal 2012. The numbers game accounts for 6.9 percent of the Lottery’s annual revenue, yet last year’s unclaimed winnings of $3.1 million accounted for nearly 29 percent of the $10.8 million that went uncollected.
KENO players, meanwhile, left more than $11.4 million on the table over the last five years, an average of $2.3 million a year. Massachusetts also gets a share of unclaimed tickets sold in the multi-state games of Powerball, Mega Millions, and Lucky for Life, which totaled more than $25.1 million over the last five years based on the state’s share of ticket sales in the games.
The Lottery doesn’t track unclaimed prizes for instant scratch tickets, which account for 70 percent of the revenues, except for winners of $1 million or more. The Hold ‘Em Poker game began in 2005 and ended in October 2012. Players had until Oct. 31, 2013, to claim their winnings, and three $4 million prizes and six $1 million prizes went unclaimed. The Mega Cash $20 instant ticket ended in 2014 with a claim deadline of August 28, 2015. Three of the 40 $1million grand prizes went unclaimed.
Earlier this month, the Lottery also announced it has officially ended the country’s first $30 scratch ticket game, World Class Millions. The agency has set a deadline of Sept. 8, 2017, to cash in winning tickets. Among the unclaimed prizes are a $15 million winner and several $1 million tickets.
Nationally, more than $2 billion is unclaimed every year in lottery winnings, according to Lotto Lotto, a California-based app that tracks lottery games. Earlier this year, a $63 million prize in California’s Super Lotto Plus game reverted to the state’s education fund after no one stepped forward to claim it. Since its inception, California has accumulated more than $820 million in unclaimed prizes. The money has gone for education programs.