Michigan Pockets Fourth Unclaimed $1 Million Lottery Prize This Year

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Is there anything more degen than not claiming your seven-figure gambling prize?

Well, that happened for the fourth time this year in Michigan, as on Thursday the Michigan Lottery announced that it is now able to keep a $1 mm prize a player won a year ago.

The $1 mm Powerball ticket hit in late 2018. According to the Lottery, the tickets expire one year from the date of the drawing.

The ticket expired at 4:45 p.m on Thursday, per the Lottery. It was purchased at the Marathon gas station, located at 27745 Orchard Lake Road in Farmington Hills, the Lottery said.

It doesn’t appear any efforts were undertaken by the state to locate the player during the year the ticket remained eligible for being claimed. Some would argue it’s solely the responsibility of the gambler to cash the winning ticket, but a valid ethical argument could also be made that the state should do more when the unclaimed prize is that large.

It’s not uncommon in any state for small lottery wins to go unclaimed. A seven-figure score going by the wayside is relatively rare, but it still happens far more than it should. According to the Lottery, a winning $1 mm Mega Million ticket went unclaimed in both March and September, and another $1 mm Powerball prize went unclaimed in October.

This is sort of akin to making the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event and deciding to abandon your chip stack and prize. Ninth place in that tournament typically pays $1 mm.

States across the country also witness seven-figure lottery prizes go unclaimed, so Michigan is not unique here. Dozens of states are involved with the multi-state jackpot drawings.

Where the money goes

Under state law, the money goes back to the state, or more specifically the School Aid Fund. Public education is of course a very worthwhile cause, but that money still should have gone to a paying customer of the Michigan Lottery. It’s more than likely fair to say that $1 mm would be life-changing money for virtually 100% of Lottery gamblers. It’s no secret to anyone that the Lottery is typically played by customers with less personal wealth than, say, a poker player in a casino. Lottery critics often call the game predatory and a “regressive tax on the poor.”

According to the Lottery, the record for an unclaimed lottery prize in Michigan is a $34 mm winning ticket from 1998. That’s far above life-altering money that someone just let the state keep.

Earlier this month, a $14.6 mm lottery prize in Arizona went unclaimed. Arizona only gives gamblers 180 days to claim the ticket, per CNN. In terms of the number of days you have to claim your prize, Michigan is far more progressive and arguably ethical. With that said, one could make the argument that 180 days and 365 days are effectively the same because if you don’t claim your prize in six months the odds of claiming it in the following six months are pretty low.

According to a separate state report, more than $22 mm in Michigan lottery prizes went unclaimed in the 2018 fiscal year. That amounted to about 1% of the total player winnings during the period, so while the dollar amount is large, it’s a tiny amount relative to the tickets winners do claim. The issue of unclaimed lottery winnings is far from a crisis in the Wolverine State.

Brian Pempus

Brian served as a senior reporter and online content manager for Card Player Magazine for nearly a decade before joining USBets in October 2018. He is currently focused on legal and regulated sports betting and online gaming. He's an avid jiu-jitsu practitioner in his free time.

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