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Millions in prize money never claimed by NJ lottery players

May 23, 2016, 9:14 am

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New Jersey Lottery

While the New Jersey Lottery pays out well over $1.8 billion in prize money each year, players lose out on tens of millions more when they fail to claim their winnings.

In just the past eight years, about $317.7 million in payouts have been forfeited by players who fail to cash in their ticket within a year as lottery rules require.

While lottery players are more diligent in some years than others, there's been at least $33.9 million forfeited every year since 2008.

Winners have a year from the date of the drawing to have their ticket validated and claim their prize money. Instant game tickets or scratch-offs expire one year from the announced end of the game.

At least 30 percent of unclaimed prizes must be returned to the state as revenue, according to the New Jersey Lottery. Generally, the "vast majority" is sent back, though, the lottery says. Usually, "far less than 10 percent" is kept in reserve to fund special prizes and promotions.

In fiscal year 2015, the lottery returned about $960 million to the state. That's $5 million less than the year before. The majority — more than $543 million — went to New Jersey's colleges and universities and to fund scholarship programs. 

No Mega Millions or Powerball grand prize winners in New Jersey have ever failed to cash in their lucky ticket, according to a New Jersey Lottery spokeswoman.

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