Every Year, $14 Million In Lottery Winnings Goes Unclaimed In Tennessee

The $61 million jackpot winner sold in Bellevue is the first jackpot in Tennessee since the state lottery started offering the Mega Millions multi-state game in 2010. Credit: vvvracer via Flickr

The $61 million jackpot winner sold in Bellevue is the first jackpot in Tennessee since the state lottery started offering the Mega Millions multi-state game in 2010. Credit: vvvracer via Flickr

A $61 million prize is still waiting to be claimed by someone who bought a lottery ticket in Bellevue. The Mega Millions winner – announced Friday – is expected to come out of the woodwork eventually. But millions of dollars goes unclaimed each year in Tennessee.

They’re often small prizes – a few dollars. But a handful of million-dollar tickets have expired after no one came forward within the 180-day window allowed by state law.

The no-shows are often inexperienced and have non-jackpot tickets that still pay out, says Tennessee Lottery CEO Rebecca Hargrove.

“You have occasional players who will say I’m never going to play until the jackpot is over $300 million,” she says. “So when it’s over $300 million, they’ll buy a ticket, see that the jackpot wasn’t won in Tennessee, and then never even look.”

Nationally, more than $800 million in prize money goes unclaimed each year, according to industry officials. In Tennessee, the average is nearly $14 million annually, and the funds are distributed among afterschool programs.

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