Schools benefit from unclaimed prize money


Millions of Californians play the lottery, but the latest numbers show $25 million in prize money went unclaimed this past fiscal year. It was $29 million the year before that!

"We've got a lot of security measures built into the tickets. But it doesn't come down to actually finding the player," said Cathy Doyle Johnston, from the California State Lottery.

So it is up to winners to come forward within six months or a year, depending on the game, or else the ticket expires. And it's heartbreaking to hear some of the jackpots people missed out on.

The largest was back in 2003 when a $28.5 million went unclaimed in the Bay Area. $25 million in Los Angeles and $20 million in Riverside County were also unclaimed.

Mark La Voy of found people aren't interested in the smaller prizes, even though they could be in the six-figures.

"They want to win the big $20 million, $200 million, and once they hear somebody else won that ticket, or there was no winner, they don't check any further," said La Voy.

The state thinks people just can't remember where they put their tickets.

"I can certainly see how people forget to check their tickets. I know I have a couple of them in here. I have one from May of 2007 and one from July of '06! Luckily, they were not winners," said ABC7's Nannette Miranda.

While only two percent of lottery prizes go unclaimed, frequent players don't understand why someone wouldn't look.

"That doesn't make sense at all! In fact, maybe we should start a second drawing for those of us who do check and don't win," said Chris Dreesman, a lottery player.

Well, public schools win. In the 23 years since the California lottery began, nearly $700 million in unclaimed money went to classrooms.

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