What happens to unclaimed lottery prizes?

Unclaimed lottery prizes are put to different uses in each state. Learn how the money is used in your state.

What happens to unclaimed lottery prizes?

You may remember the 2006 Mega Millions jackpot worth $31 million. The ticket was sold in Queens, New York, and drawn on August 1st; the winning numbers were 14, 29, 32, 43, 49, and the Mega Ball was number 14. What you may not remember is that no one came forward to claim their prize. So, what happens to lottery prizes when they are unclaimed?

The answer is not as simple as you might imagine. First of all, how long you have to claim your jackpot depends on where the ticket was purchased. For example, in Georgia, you have up to 180 days after the draw date to claim a prize, while in New York, you only have up to one year after the draw date to claim. It’s a good idea to find out what the rules are in your state so you don’t miss your big payout.

When lottery prizes go unclaimed

When lottery prizes go unclaimed, what happens to the money will also depend on the state in which the ticket was sold. Generally, the participating state or states will get back the funds they contributed, and each state is permitted to use the money for its own lottery-funded purposes. Here’s a breakdown for each state.

State Areas of Funding
Arizona A General Fund that contributes to higher education, environmental conservation, health services, and business development.
Arkansas The Educational Scholarship Fund.
California  Public education.
Colorado Supporting education, conservation and wildlife, and the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund.
Connecticut A General Fund that contributes to education, health and human services, retired employee benefits, debt services, transportation, and judicial and correctional services.
Delaware A General Fund that contributes to education, neighborhood crime protection, pollution prevention, healthcare for families and seniors, and park and beach maintenance.
District of Columbia A General Fund that contributes to education, parks and recreation, senior and child care, housing, and public safety.
Florida The Educational Enhancement Trust Fund (EETF).
Georgia  Education programs that assist with undergraduate grants and scholarships, and the Georgia Prekindergarten Program, which is available for all 4-year-olds.
Idaho Funding public schools and the Permanent Building Fund, which supports state-operated facilities.
Illinois The Common School Fund.
Indiana Supporting police and firefighters, the Teacher’s Retirement Fund, and the Lottery Surplus Fund.
Iowa Backing the Vision Iowa Program, which develops tourist attractions and builds and repairs schools, and supporting veterans.
Kansas The State Gaming Revenues Fund (SGRF), which contributes to veteran’s programs, mental health programs, the Problem Gambling Grant Fund, the Correctional Institutions Building Fund, the Juvenile Detention Facilities Fund, the Economic Development Initiatives Fund, and the State General Fund.
Kentucky Education Scholarship programs such as the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES), Kentucky Tuition Grant, Workready Kentucky Scholarship, College Access Program, and the Dual Credit Scholarship Program.
Louisiana  The Minimum Foundation Program (MFP), which funds public education K-12, and the Department of Health and Hospitals-Office of Behavioral Health to support problem gambling programs.
Maine  Maine General Fund, which supports local schools, higher education, health services, and the Outdoor Heritage Fund. 
Maryland Maryland General Fund, which supports public health, education, and safety services.
Massachusetts Supporting a General Fund that may be used for snow removal, public safety, school services, senior programs, and recreational projects.
Michigan The School Aid Fund.
Minnesota Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF), which maintains and enhances the state’s environmental resources.
Mississippi The State Highway Fund and the Education Enhancement Fund.
Missouri The A+ Scholarship Program, Virtual Schools, Special Education Excess Costs, and supporting the educational scholarships, the construction of college and university buildings, and library acquisitions.
Montana The Lottery Enterprise Fund, which supports Teacher’s Retirement Obligations, Youth Detention Services, and STEM Scholarships.
Nebraska The Nebraska Opportunity Grant Fund, which supports the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund, the Education Improvement Fund, the Environmental Trust Fund, and the State Fair.
New Hampshire Supporting public education.
New Jersey Boosting the state pension fund, which supports the retirement of public employees.
New Mexico The Lottery Tuition Fund.
New York Supporting public education.
North Carolina Supporting the state Pre-K program, construction of schools, college grants and scholarships, non-instructional support, and school transportation.
North Dakota  The Compulsive Gambling Prevention and Treatment Fund and the Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force Grant Fund.
Ohio The Lottery Profits for Education Fund.
Oklahoma The Oklahoma Education Lottery Trust Fund.
Oregon Supporting education, Outdoor Schools, economic growth, state parks, natural habitats, and veteran services.
Pennsylvania Supporting low-cost prescription programs PACE and PACENET, free and reduced-fare transportation services, and local services provided by the 52 Area Agencies on Aging.
Puerto Rico Funding social programs such as the Fund for Catastrophic Illnesses, the Department of Health, and the Compulsive Gamblers Aid Program.
Rhode Island The State General Fund, which supports public education, law enforcement, public safety, and human services. 
South Carolina Supporting Scholarship Programs such as Palmetto Fellows, HOPE, and LIFE.
South Dakota The State General Fund, which supports education, natural resources, problem gambling services, and lower property taxes.
Tennessee The Tennessee Education Lottery Programs.
Texas The Foundation School Fund and the Texas Veterans Commission Fund for Veterans' Assistance.
Vermont The Vermont Education Fund.
Virginia Supporting K-12 public education.
Washington The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, Washington’s Economic Development Account, and problem gambling assistance.
West Virginia Supporting the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services by providing meals, caregiving, transportation, medical funding, and property tax credit for seniors.
Wisconsin Providing property tax relief.
Wyoming The Wyoming State Treasurer, who disperses money as needed to support public services, education, and infrastructure.


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