Most lottery stories focus on the lucky individuals who have taken home the big prize. But sometimes, a winning lottery ticket goes unclaimed, leaving millions on the table.
One of the most fascinating questions to ponder is how you would spend the cash prizes from a winning lottery ticket. But a new story presents a more harrowing scenario: What if you found out your winning lottery ticket had expired?
That unlucky fate may soon become a reality for someone in Indiana, after the state lottery announced that a $1 million winning Powerball ticket is now considered “expired” after going unclaimed for six months.
"It's unusual, but it's not unheard of," Hoosier Lottery spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland told Yahoo News in a phone interview on Tuesday. “We have no way of knowing why the ticket was not redeemed.”
The winning ticket ― which matched five of the six numbers ― was purchased from a local Circle K store back in Arpil but was never claimed.
Interestingly, McFarland says that about $10 million worth of winning Indiana lottery tickets go unclaimed each year, or about 1.5 percent of all sales.
In the week leading up to the 180-day expiration date, the Hoosier Lottery made an effort to get the attention of whoever had purchased the ticket.
“We put out news releases, did interviews with local media and were bringing it up in every way possible,” McFarland said.
But since the expiration date has passed, McFarland says even if the ticket buyer stepped forward today, there’s no way the Hoosier Lottery could honor the claim.
As bad as missing out on a $1 million payday sounds, the real whopper came in 2002, when a $50 million Powerball ticket went unclaimed.
And back in 2011, a $77 million Powerball ticket went unclaimed in Georgia.
But the lottery winnings don’t simply disappear into thin air.
For starters, the owners of the local Circle K will receive $10,000 for selling the winning ticket.
Indiana state law dictates that the rest of the winnings will reportedly be distributed among a firefighter pension fund, teacher retirement funds and even a fund to reduce the excise tax for vehicle owners.
Other states including Texas, Wyoming and New York have explored their own ways to spend unclaimed winnings, including a proposal in Texas to give some of the funds to veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As for that giant unclaimed lottery ticket in Georgia? Unclaimed winnings in that state go back into the general lottery fund, meaning that some lucky ― and prompt ― winner will still see the funds.