Instead of turning back into a pumpkin, an unclaimed Georgia Lottery prize of $77.1 million turned back into a scrap of paper at midnight in December of 2011.
Now it was just an expired and useless Powerball ticket.
That remains the largest unclaimed lottery jackpot in the US and second in the world to the UK’s 638.1 million pound-er. That would have been worth almost $833 million in the states.
So it seems unclaimed lottery prizes happen not only in the Peach State, they happen universally — or at least everywhere lotteries are held.
Still, the US holds the record worldwide for the largest yearly total amount of unclaimed lottery prizes.
An estimated annual amount of almost $3 billion in lottery wins go uncollected here.
Big winners both present and unaccounted for
In 2016, three American couples each received a share of $1.586 billion, the largest jackpot in history. The largest (and, we assume, happiest) single winner came from South Carolina and went home with $1.537 billion from a Mega Millions ticket in 2018.
They can all count themselves lucky twice since they actually remembered to collect their prizes.
On the other hand, according to a report by the Chattanooga Times in 2007, Georgia lottery winnings worth millions of dollars went unspoken for in Georgia and neighboring Tennessee.
It’s a nationwide phenomenon. According to lottery.net, billions of prize dollars go uncollected every year.
Some of America’s Biggest Lottery Losers have included:
- Someone in Arizona who lost out on their $14.6 million prize in December 2019
- The lucky-but-then unlucky player who let their $10 million Maryland Lottery jackpot go unclaimed
- The Missouri Lottery ticket holder who could have added a $1 million Powerball prize to their bank account this past June
Best-case scenario: You win!
This year’s Georgia legislative session concluded with no forward movement for other kinds of gambling. That means the Georgia Lottery remains one of the sole gaming outlets for Georgians for at least another year.
And if you buy a ticket or tickets and win a lottery jackpot, The New York Lottery recommends taking these 10 steps:
- Stay anonymous if your state permits it.
- See a tax pro before redeeming the ticket.
- Avoid sudden lifestyle changes.
- Pay off all your debts.
- Put together a team of financial and legal advisors.
- Invest prudently.
- Live within a budget.
- Take steps to protect your assets.
- Plan any charitable gifts.
- Review your estate plans.
But first, so you don’t end up in an unclaimed Georgia lottery prize story yourself, take the proactive step advised by some state lotteries: Sign your ticket at purchase.
In Georgia, where you have 180 days to claim your prize, you must be at least 18 to enter the state Lottery.
That’s no joke: In 2017, a Californian lost out on a $5 million jackpot because his underage 16-year-old son purchased the winning ticket there.
HOPE for the future: Where Georgia Lottery money goes
Maximizing revenues for education programs has stayed the Georgia Lottery’s mission.
In Fiscal Year 2021 alone, the Georgia Lottery put over $1 billion from revenues into the Lottery for Education Account; the monies then went into pre–K and HOPE (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally), a scholarship and grant program, according to the Lottery.
The money from unclaimed Georgia lottery winnings returns to the prize pool for future prizes and special promotions.