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how long can you keep a lottery ticket

Watch Out, Your Powerball Winnings Can Expire

Less than an hour after the winning numbers in the $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot were announced, a Chino Hills, CA convenience store claimed that it had sold a grand-prize-winning ticket. This means that someone, somewhere (most likely close to Chino Hills) is in possession of what I would unhesitatingly call one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets. So how long does the Powerball winner have to claim the jackpot?

UPDATE: This post was originally published in January 2016. As of Aug. 23, 2017, the new Powerball jackpot has hit $700 million (and if there are no winners, it’ll go to $1 billion). The Powerball will be drawn at 10:59 p.m. EST.

EARLIER: The state of California actually has its own ticket expiration policy. The state’s lottery site says that a Powerball jackpot can be claimed for up to one year from the date of the draw. Of course, unless the holder of the grand prize ticket accidentally flushes the super-expensive piece of paper down the toilet in an instance of unbelievable calamity, it likely won’t take that long before the winner comes forward to claim the largest prize in lotto history.

It turns out that California was home to a whole slew of smaller, less-lucrative golden ticket winners, as well. The state had 12 tickets that matched five out of the six drawn numbers, which means prizes for a lucky dozen people of $1 million or $50,000, depending on whether the red Powerball number was one of the five.

Winners of smaller Powerball prizes don’t have as long as jackpot winners to claim their cash before their tickets expire, though. Players have 180 days from Wednesday’s draw to claim all prizes other than the jackpot — yes, $4 is a win too!

If Americans know nothing else — like who may have won a prize in any of the other 49 states — they sure know now that the West Coast is the best coast for stepping into a 7-Eleven for a Slurpie and stepping out with a $1.5 billion ticket in your pocket. Well, it might not be the best coast at this very moment, since you could very well get trampled while trying to get through the door.

While there’s no information at this point on the jackpot ticket holder, California is not among the states that guarantee lotto winners the right to complete anonymity. This means you’ll probably be hearing some sort of name, as long as the winner doesn’t do the unthinkable and neglect to actually claim the prize. If they are clever enough to go for semi-anonymity and create a blind trust before stepping up, though, then the listing could bear a title, like California Dreamin’ LLC, instead of a name.

The winner definitely shouldn’t take too much time coming up with a badass trust name. It’s time to make like that golden ticket is a gallon of milk close to spoiling, because that baby does expire.

Less than an hour after the winning numbers in the $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot were announced, a Chino Hills, CA convenience store claimed that it had sold a grand-prize-winning ticket. This means that someone, somewhere (most likely close to…

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.