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When Do Lottery Tickets Expire?

If you were to win the lottery tomorrow, would you really wait around to collect the prize money? This, of course, is unlikely, but there have been documented cases of winners delaying their winnings’ collection, whether this is for personal preference or simply because they have been out of the country.

So with these circumstances in mind, it’s worthwhile asking, when do lottery tickets expire? You may be surprised to hear that lottery tickets do in fact come with an expiry date, but the maximum waiting period depends on the type of jackpot you’ve won.

How long do I have to collect my winnings?

Standard lottery ticket holders have a total of 180 days to collect their winnings. UK Lotto is very strict on this – in fact, in 2008 a huge prize of £397,462 went unclaimed.

UK Lotto issued a statement to warn players that on day 181, no winnings would be awarded. So what happens to the money that’s unclaimed?

Does unclaimed prize money go back into the next prize?

As UK Lotto puts in, when a winner does not claim, the real winner is the general public. Any unclaimed funds are immediately re-invested into the Good Causes charity, which has raised more than £22 billion for civic regeneration.

Good Causes, which also claims 28p from every £1 spent on lottery tickets, funds grants across the UK for health, education, environment, charity, heritage, sports and the arts.

With contributions from EuroMillions, Lotto, Hotpicks, Thunderball, scratchcards and instant games, Good Causes makes up to £30 million each week, totalling more than £37 billion since 1994.

How can I avoid an unclaimed ticket?

It is always advisable to check your ticket on a weekly basis to make sure you don’t miss out. However, if this is a problem, there is always the option of buying Lotto tickets online, which automatically notify you if you win.

How to find out if you have an unclaimed ticket

You can find out if you have an unclaimed ticket on the main Lotto website. Under the unclaimed Lottery prizes section, details are clearly laid out including the draw date, type of game, prize tier, prize value, location purchased, winning results and the latest date to claim.

It’s better to be safe than sorry, however – remember, if you’ve bought a ticket for this week’s jackpot, be sure to check it in the next six months!

Katie Thompson is an NCTJ-trained journalist and freelance online gaming writer. She enjoys researching the iGaming industry and writing comprehensive guides on the history of gambling, beating the dealer and even how to get bingo dauber stains out of your favourite shirt.

We’ve done the hard work for you and broken down the most popular lotteries to help you decide which one is the easiest for you to win.

You may be surprised to hear that lottery tickets do in fact come with an expiry date, but the maximum waiting period depends on the type of jackpot you've won.

How Old Can a Lottery Ticket Be to Turn in to Win?

How Do Multiple Winners Claim a Lottery Ticket?

All good things must come to an end, so they say, and that includes winning lottery tickets. The state agencies that regulate lotteries and other forms of gambling will set expiration dates on when the ticket can be redeemed. Keep the ticket safe, and whatever you do, turn it in on time.

Lottery Winnings

If you win a smaller amount in a lottery drawing, you can claim your prize at the store or outlet where you bought the ticket. If the winnings are more than $600, in most cases you must redeem the ticket through the state lottery agency. Most convenience stores do not carry a large amount of cash, and any win over $600 needs to be documented on a Form W-2G for federal tax purposes. There’s also a deadline involved, set by state law.

Expiration Dates

Lottery tickets expire, and state law sets the time frame. This can range from 90 days to a year. Some lottery tickets will carry this information in the fine print on the back. Others don’t, but you can always access this information through the lottery agency website. In Minnesota, for example, the expiration date is one year from the date of the drawing. For scratch-off tickets, the deadline is one year from the official end of the game. Minnesota’s lottery website posts a list of the current lottery games and the number of unclaimed prizes in each.

The Fate of the Unclaimed

If you buy a lottery ticket, sign it immediately and keep it safe. If the ticket is lost or stolen without a signature, then anyone who finds it can turn it in. If a prize goes unclaimed, then state law sets down the next step. Either the lottery agency returns the money to the cash pool for another game, or turns the money over to the attorney general of the state. A multi-state lottery will return the money to each state lottery agency in proportion to their ticket sales.

Why Expire?

Strange as it may seem, a healthy number of winning lottery tickets do expire. According to a CNN report, $800 million in lottery money never found its legitimate owner in 2011, out of nearly $40 billion in total prize money. A common reason is that many lottery players don’t realize they’re holding “secondary” winners, which matched some, not all, of the numbers. Another reason may be that the news of a jackpot winner in another state discourages people from even checking their tickets for the smaller prize. Unclaimed jackpots, understandably, are rarer.

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All good things must come to an end, so they say, and that includes winning lottery tickets. The state agencies that regulate lotteries and other forms of gambling will set expiration dates on when the ticket can be redeemed. Keep the ticket safe, and whatever you do, turn it in on time.