ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE)- Someone in New Mexico is a millionaire and they may not even know it. There is an unclaimed winning Powerball ticket out there, matching the numbers 8, 18, 45, 53 and 58. The person didn’t hit the Powerball of 35 so, instead of $90 million, they’ll win $1 million.
It’s rare that someone doesn’t come forward for those million-dollar prizes but, you may be surprised at how many lottery winnings go unclaimed. The New Mexico Lottery says it can be hundreds of dollars, even a grand, each day.
When you think Powerball, you probably think big jackpot, matching all five numbers plus the Powerball. Yet, you can win some cash without the matching all those numbers and, if no one collects that cash, it adds up.
Lottery player James Dixon doesn’t win much or often but, when he does.
“I claim any winnings. I mean, I play religiously so, I look at that as a plus, a lucky or I’m getting something back on the money I’ve invested,” says Dixon.
It’s the attitude of many New Mexico Lottery players.
“A dollar here, a dollar there but, it allows me to play again,” says Judy Docherty.
Paul Penick plays the lottery twice a week. The day after every drawing he comes to the New Mexico Lottery Headquarters to see if he won. While Penick’s only ever won a dollar or two, he always claims it and doesn’t understand why you wouldn’t.
“Not very smart, you might as well take the money, you paid for it,” says Penick.
Yet, you’d be surprised how many winners don’t. New Mexico Lottery Spokesperson Linda Hamlin says it’s rare big prizes are left unclaimed but, “What you will find is players that win maybe one or two dollars really don’t claim them,” says Hamlin.
Depending on the jackpot amount, the night of the week and the game, that money can add up to between $100 to $1,000 a day in expired, unclaimed prize money.
“Prize money, whether it’s claimed or not, remains prize money and if there are unclaimed prizes, they go right back into the prize pool and they’re used to fund prizes in other games so, other players might win your prize,” explains Hamlin.
It begs the question why.
“We think the reason people don’t claim their prizes is a lot of players get fixated on the jackpots and they don’t think there are any other prize levels,” Hamlin says.
In fact, there are nine different ways to win Powerball, only one of which is bringing home the jackpot. The prizes for those eight other ways range anywhere from a dollar to $2 million.
So, how big was the biggest unclaimed prize?
“It was over $200,000 and we just don’t know what happened to that player,” says Hamlin.
It’s shocking news to lottery players.
“Somebody’s an idiot,” says Penick.
Judy Docherty agrees.
“That’s ridiculous,” says Docherty.
Dixon has an explanation.
“That was my ticket, can I get it?” asks Dixon.
Winners have 90 days to claim prizes. Hamlin says she can only remember one time when someone tried to claim a prize after a ticket had expired. At that point, you’re out of luck.
“We want players to play and we want them to play all the way through which is, you buy your ticket, you check it, if you’re owed a prize, come and get it,” says Hamlin.
She says one time a man claimed his $10,000 prize just an hour and a half before it expired. He told them he almost missed out on the cash because he never checked his tickets.