Unclaimed California Lottery Prizes Total 'Tens Of Millions' Each Year

By Logan DeLoye

September 19, 2022

Fortunes Lost: Winning Lottery Destroyed by Spill
Photo: Getty Images

A handful of Californians win the lottery each year and forget to check their ticket to see if they have won. According to KTLA, a yearly average of $46.8 million goes unclaimed by winners of various lottery games throughout the state. Winners have exactly six months from the date that the winning numbers are announced to claim their prize.

The amount of prize money that goes unclaimed fluctuates from year to year. KTLA noted that from 2019 to 2020, $75.4 million went unclaimed by winners while $19.5 million, a fraction of the previous year, went unclaimed in 2021. Lottery officials are aware of the winning numbers and the location that winning ticket was sold, but never the name of the winner.

“We know in real time if somebody hit the jackpot or even if somebody won a second-tier prize right away, because it’s a computer,” California State Lottery spokesperson Carolyn Becker shared with KTLA, “We don’t know who it is. It’s just a report that prints out from the computer that says a winning ticket was bought in Los Angeles.”

Regardless of if the winner lost their ticket or forgot about the drawing entirely, the unclaimed millions have to go somewhere.

“Whenever there’s a big prize or even a little one that doesn’t get claimed, that money just goes right back into public education. So as much as we want to see our winners get their money, we’re not too upset when they don’t,” Becker explained.

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