What happens to unclaimed lottery prize money?

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NEW YORK —  A lucky New Jersey resident picked the winning $429 million numbers in Saturday’s drawing. But by Monday afternoon, the winner had not yet come forward.

The chances of winning the Powerball jackpot are roughly 1 in 292 million, according to their website.  According to AARP, about half of all Americans play state lotteries, so it’s not surprising that some tickets go missing.

Each state has different rules when it comes to what happens to lost tickets and unclaimed money. Certain states allow for winning tickets to be redeemed anywhere from 180 to 365 days. Scratch-off tickets have shorter lifespans of up to 90 days.

In the tri-state area, lottery tickets are treated as bearer instruments, like currency. If you lose your ticket, unless your signature is on the back, anyone can cash in the prize. The laws in most states require them to pay the person whose name is on the back of the ticket.

Unclaimed money won’t sit forever though.

In New York, unclaimed prize money is returned to the prize pool. Sometimes it’s used to subsidize prizes for larger jackpots, promotions and special one-time games.

Ohio puts unclaimed money into an education fund that supports K-12 students.  The Vermont Lottery conducts second chance drawings for Instant Scratch Tickets for expired and unclaimed prizes.

New Jersey lottery players can check the New Jersey Lottery’s website to find up to two years of archived winning numbers.

If you think you have a winning ticket, visit your state’s lottery website.

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