Here's What Happens if No One Claims the Mega Millions Jackpot

Check your Mega Millions lottery tickets!

On July 29, one very lucky person hit the Mega Millions jackpot winning $1.337 billion. The billion-plus dollar ticket was sold at a Speedway in Des Plaines, Illinois about 20 miles north of Chicago. In fact, the original jackpot was $1.28 billion but increased due to the windfall of ticket sales.

This colossal win was the second biggest jackpot in Mega Millions history. In two decades, it was only topped by the $1.537 billion ticket that was purchased at KC Mart convenience store on Oct. 23, 2018, in Simpsonville, South Carolina. (The largest jackpot of all time was the $1.586 billion Powerball in 2016.)

But here’s the rub. As of press time, no one has claimed their winnings. “For a prize of this magnitude, it’s not unusual for the winner to take a while to claim,” Illinois lottery director Harold Mays said in a statement. “I’m sure they’re going through a range of emotions.”

Believe it or not, millions of dollars in lottery winnings have gone unclaimed. It is said that each year an estimated $2 billion lottery winnings are not collected.

Most of them are for $1 or up to $5 jackpots. However, consider the $77 million never claimed for the winning Powerball ticket that was sold in Georgia in 2011 or the $68 million unclaimed Mega Millions ticket sold in New York for the Dec. 24, 2002, draw. Then there was the $51.7 million Powerball ticket from Indiana in 2002.

While its too late for those big-ticket winners mentioned above to cash in, the person who purchased that lucky Mega Millions ticket at the Des Plaines Speedway has 12 months from the date of the draw to come forward for their loot. (They have just 60 days to decide whether to take annual payments or cash.)

At the end of the day, lotteries like the one in Illinois provide a big win for the state as it offers key funding to public elementary and high schools. Since it began in 1985, the Mega Millions lottery has made $21 billion for education funding in the state.

“We’re eager to find out who won and look forward to congratulating the winner soon!” Ohio lottery director Pat McDonald, currently serving as Lead Director for the Mega Millions Consortium, told “Better still, this exciting jackpot run has had a significant positive impact on the revenues for good causes raised by our member lotteries.”

What happens to unclaimed lottery tickets? Here’s what we discovered.

Where was the $1.337 billion Mega Millions ticket sold?

The jackpot-winning ticket was sold at a Speedway in Des Plaines, Illinois, northwest of Chicago.

Who won the Mega Millions jackpot?

We don’t know yet. At press time, the winner has still not yet come forward. However, according to lottery rules in Illinois, the winner has 12 months from the date of the draw to claim their winnings. Yet, they only have 60 days from the date of the draw to choose the cash option or annual payments.

Related: See Inside This $180 Million Lottery Winner's Mountaintop Home

Can a lottery winner be anonymous?

Yes. In Illinois, winners of prizes of $250,000 or more can opt to remain anonymous.

If no one claims the Mega Millions jackpot, who will get the money?

“It's much too premature for this win to be considered unclaimed,” says Megan Powers, director of communications at the Illinois Lottery. “However, in Illinois, any prizes unclaimed after 12 months are returned to the Common School Fund to support kindergarten through twelfth grade education.”

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What does the seller of the winning ticket get?

According to Powers, all lottery retailers receive a 1% bonus commission for selling a winning ticket, capped at a maximum of $500,000. The owner of Speedway will get a $500,000 cash bonus. “Speedway is thrilled to have sold the winning ticket,” adds Powers.

What organizations profit from Mega Millions?

Mega Millions is played across 47 states, with the profits from each lottery supporting local causes. In the case of Illinois, that lottery generates funding for kindergarten through 12th grade education with all profits being returned to the Common School Fund and to support several good causes. “Thanks to the most recent Mega Millions jackpot roll series, the Illinois Lottery will return $34 million to the Common School Fund,” shares Powers.

Have any other jackpots been unclaimed?

Yes! In the United States some big jackpots have never been claimed including the $77 million Powerball ticket in Georgia in 2011, the $68 million Mega Millions ticket sold in New York in December 2002, the $51.7 million Powerball ticket sold in Indiana in September 2002 and the $46 million Mega Millions ticket purchased in New York in April 2006.

If you happen to be the holder of the $1.337 billion ticket what should you do?

The Illinois Lottery offers some sage advice on next steps: Sign the back of the ticket and keep it somewhere safe. Look for professional legal and financial advice and call the Lottery Player Hotline on 1-800-252-1775 which allows people to arrange a private appointment to claim the prize. “We will work closely with the winner to respect any wishes for privacy and support them in any way we can to provide a positive winning experience,” adds Mays.

Related: The Biggest Lottery Winners of All Time