Even scarier than the cost of Halloween candy would be missing out on a lottery ticket worth millions.
But somewhere out there, the winner of an unclaimed Arizona Lottery prize is currently teetering on the line between rich or regretful. They’ll be $4.3 million richer as long as they claim their lottery winnings by Oct. 24. If they claim them in time and choose the lump-sum option, they can pocket $2 million.
The still-lucky winner purchased “The Pick” ticket on April 24 at Mesa Safeway, located on Guadalupe and Alma School roads.
The winning numbers on April 27 were 9, 13, 18, 29, 32 and 34. Arizona Lottery winners have 180 days to claim prizes; however, time’s up for this one next week. Then the money goes elsewhere, by Arizona law.
When AZ lotto jackpots are unclaimed
Unclaimed lottery tickets do exist, and sometimes in Arizona. A winning ticket worth more than three times as much went unclaimed in the Grand Canyon State in 2019. That $14.6 million jackpot could have meant a very merry holiday for someone and their loved ones; instead, it expired that December.
At the time, Arizona Lottery executive director Gregg Edgar said:
“There is nothing more exciting for the Arizona Lottery than to award a big jackpot … so we are always a little sad when we see one of these prizes expire unclaimed.”
Even this expired jackpot pales beside a $77 million Powerball prize that went unclaimed in Georgia in 2011. It stands as the largest unclaimed lottery prize ever.
Other current unclaimed lottery prizes
There are more Arizona Lottery prizes waiting for their winners to claim them:
- $50,000: Powerball, drawn on May 14, expires on Nov. 10
- $10,000: Mega Millions, drawn on July 19, expires on Jan. 15
- $50,000: Powerball, drawn on July 25, expires on Jan. 21
- $50,000: Powerball, drawn on Aug. 31, expires on Feb. 27
- $1,000,000: The Pick, drawn on Sept. 17, expires on March 16
Forgotten tickets, ‘laundered’ money
Maybe the mystery winner has forgotten about their entry. Arizona Lottery public information officer John Gilliland told PlayAZ that before working at the lottery office, he himself would forget to check his tickets.
But, he said, unclaimed prizes are “almost always” due to a lost ticket or one damaged beyond repair; for instance, ran through the laundry. He pointed out that those incidents are more likely to happen with casual players; “serious lottery players” don’t lose their tickets or put them in a position to get damaged.
A few years after a run of unclaimed big-money prizes in Virginia, that state’s lottery spokesman John Hagerty spoke with Lottery.com.
He said that people who normally don’t participate in the lottery might do so for a chance at a supersized jackpot, and then forget to check their numbers. Lottery expert Brett Jacobson explained that some people don’t even realize there are secondary prizes.
In another scenario, someone might visit a state while there’s a big prize in the offing but forget about their ticket when they’re back home. Or sometimes, people delay redeeming a big prize to give themselves time to adjust to their change in fortune.
Unique situations pop up, too. For instance, in Oregon recently, a household’s two dogs chewed up a winning ticket overnight. That story had a tail-wagging ending since lottery employees successfully pieced the ticket back together.
Where do unclaimed Arizona Lottery jackpots go?
The fate of unclaimed lottery dollars is laid out in the Arizona statute:
- 30% goes to Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
- $250,000 goes to the Tribal College Dual Education Program through the Department of Education. The program provides money so tribal high school students can take college courses and receive high school and college credits.
- $835,000 goes to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
Gilliland said that in the Arizona Lottery’s view, “Unclaimed money is player money.” So, the remainder of any unclaimed dollars each year goes to new lottery games and second-chance drawings.
What to do if you win the lottery
According to Gilliland, the Arizona Lottery recommends each winner:
- Sign the winning ticket right away so no one else can claim it.
- Keep the winning ticket in a safe place.
- Talk to a financial advisor if it’s a big jackpot.
Gilliland pointed out that, in a sense, everyone wins when there’s a big jackpot. Lottery winners put money back into the economy and pay taxes on their windfalls. “It does so much good across the state.”
“We want people to win, claim and enjoy their lives,” he said. But to do that, players have to first remember they purchased a ticket and then check their numbers. “Can’t make a dream come true if they don’t cash in their ticket.”