Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Unclaimed Lottery Winnings swell into the Millions

Another unclaimed prize, a mega million ticket worth over $250,000 has been added to the Texas lottery unclaimed fund this past week. Winners have 180 days from the date of the drawing to claim their prize. Evidently, this occurs quite often. In 2007 a total of $58.9 million in winnings went unclaimed! And since the lottery was initiated in 1993, a whopping $676 million has gone unclaimed.

I have only bought a handful of lotto and scratch off tickets and I thoroughly checked each one of them, over and over for a winner. How is it possible that so many winners are never collected? Here are some of the reasons commonly cited for these huge neglected sums:

1. Scratch games are too complicated for the players to readily see that they won.

2. The terminals are failing to show tickets as winning tickets when they are in fact, winners. Often times store clerks don't allow the terminals enough time to respond when checking a ticket and will run the ticket through a second time. This causes the print-out to show the ticket is not a winner even though it may have been.

3. Winners don’t check their own tickets . Players have no idea that they have a winning ticket because they don’t check their own tickets but rather depend on the terminals and store clerks to tell them if they have a winning ticket.

What becomes of this unclaimed money? The first $20 million of unclaimed prizes is transferred to the Texas Department of Health for further distribution to hospitals and health care. Anything beyond that $20 million is up for grabs - it flows into the general revenue fund. Unfortunately, this is contrary to the initial premise that all lottery proceeds would be directed to the education fund.

It seems the state has very little incentive to improve the terminals and/or make the scratch offs less complicated since the majority of this unclaimed prize money is funneled into the general tax fund for politicians to spend as they please. Why would they want to pay out more, if in the end they get access to the unclaimed money?


  1. Unfortunately, this is contrary to the initial premise that all lottery proceeds would be directed to the education fund.


  2. I think that all unclaimed winnings should go to the education fund, where it was said it would go from the start. At this point the board of education is suffering due to lack of funds to hire staff and teachers, and furnish supplies. When the lotteries started I believed the lottery funds would add to the education fund, not replace it. Every year the school board and teachers ask that my children supply paper, tissues, hand sanitizer, xtra pencils & pens, etc. They have even gone as far as to ask for donations for a fridge for the next school year, when my child wouldn't be there to use it. Where is this money going, or should I ask who's pockets it's lining??