By Jeff Wagner

ROSEVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) — If you didn’t win the Powerball jackpot, you might want check other lottery tickets you own. That’s because millions of dollars in winnings go unclaimed in Minnesota each year.

Lisa in St. Paul sent WCCO an email wanting to know: What happens to unclaimed lottery winnings? And how much exactly is getting left behind?

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Like so many, Jeff Wagner bubbled in his hopes and dreams onto paper Monday for a chance at a life-changing jackpot. The Powerball also produces smaller, yet still big winners.

There are 11 Minnesotans who’ve won $50,000 through the Powerball in the past year, 11 who still need to claim their winnings.

One person, who won $50,000 on Jan. 9, only has five days left to claim the money.

Why is there a one-year deadline in Minnesota to claim winnings?

“It’s in state statute, it’s the law,” said Adam Prock, the executive director of the Minnesota Lottery. “The industry average around the United States is about 180 days. We actually have one of the longer periods to … turn in your tickets.”

If a winner misses the one-year deadline, that person is literally out of luck.

What happens to unclaimed money after the deadline? It gets moved to state’s general fund. That means it can be used for roads, schools and other state-funded projects.

(credit: CBS)

How much money goes unclaimed each year in Minnesota?

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“On average, it’s about $10 million a year,” Prock said.

That $10 million amounts to only 5% of the total winnings given out each year. Prock said most of it is comprised of small prizes, like $1, $2 and $5 winners from scratch tickets.

“Many of those winners just don’t take the time to turn the ticket in or they get lost in the dash of a car. It’s pretty rare to see a big winner go unclaimed,” Prock said.

That rarity just occurred a few days ago. On of the first day of each year, the Minnesota Millionaire Raffle is held. Two people win $1 million, five people win $100,000, and five more win $25,000. Winners have until Dec. 31 to claim their prize. A $100,000 winning ticket from Sartell was announced on Jan. 1, 2021. It went unclaimed when the calendar changed to 2022.

“It’s really important for us to find those winners. We do everything we can to find them,” Prock said.

The Minnesota Lottery contacts retailers that sold jackpots to get the word out. It also uses advertising and social media to make sure people know tickets went unclaimed. On Dec.27, Minnesota Lottery tweeted about the $100,000 unclaimed raffle prize, asking people in Sartell to “check your coat pockets and clean out your drawers!”

“This is a fun game. We’re in the entertainment business and we want to make sure we find those winners,” Prock said.

Retailers in Minnesota that sell jackpots of $100,000 or more are rewarded a $5,000 bonus. They get that money regardless if the prize goes unclaimed.

To see unclaimed prizes in Minnesota, click here.

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Jeff Wagner