Sometimes unclaimed Virginia Lottery prizes hide under the refrigerator magnet. Or, they could be wedged in the center console of your car.
Either way, remember to check the lotto numbers. That slip of paper could add up to a stack of cash — but only if you check the list of numbers and turn in the winnings on time:
- In 2019, a Baltimore woman’s cat knocked some of her Powerball tickets off her night table. Fortunately, she cleaned up in time to find and cash in her $50,000 ticket.
- A 2017 snowstorm prompted an Oregon man to clean his home office, where he stumbled upon a winning Mega Millions ticket still worth $1 million. And no amount of snow could keep him from claiming that prize that same day.
The Virginia Lottery has its own share of close calls and unclaimed prizes. In 2018, winners claimed two prizes totaling $4 million just ahead of the deadline.
And in 2016, three Virginia Lottery Powerball tickets worth $50,000 weren’t cashed in for a payday.
Total unclaimed prizes can reach $10 million per year in the state, but usually, those prizes are for far smaller amounts, not for giant jackpots.
The whys of unclaimed Virginia Lottery prizes
Virginia Lottery spokesman John Hagerty told lotterypost.com that prizes expire “more often than you think.”
People who don’t normally play sometimes jump in for a chance at a supersized jackpot. Then, they neglect their tickets. The number of unclaimed smaller prizes increases when a big jackpot builds.
“It’s entirely possible that people didn’t realize that you could win prizes that are smaller even if you didn’t win the big jackpot,” Hagerty said.
Lottery expert Brett Jacobson echoed the opinion. He said: “Some people don’t realize there are secondary prizes.”
It bears repeating because even a former Iowa governor didn’t catch his windfall right away. Tom Vilsack, the current US Secretary of Agriculture, eventually checked his ticket back in 2020. He won $150,000, then advised the public to “check your ticket. It matters.”
Some winners purposely delay cashing in on a big jackpot. They use the time to plan for their new reality.
In Virginia, winners have 180 days to claim a lotto win. The 180-day deadline applies when a scratch game comes to an end as well.
Some states use unclaimed lottery wins to fund a bonus game. Virginia uses abandoned wins to back low-interest loans for school construction, technology upgrades, and renovations. It adds up. Since 1988, the Virginia Lottery transferred more than $320 million in unclaimed winnings to the fund.