I don't play a whole lot but it is fun to grab a couple of Texas Lottery scratch off tickets or a quick pick from time to time. Sure, I know I'm most likely just giving my money to the State of Texas instead of winning but it's still fun to try. That feeling of anticipation of a hopeful big win as you scratch or watch those numbered balls fall is what I think is the most fun. Even if I get my money back, I still consider that a win. So what happens, for whatever reason, a winner forgets they won and doesn't claim their prize? Here's what Texas law has to say.

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My History of Winning and Losing

I remember when the Texas Lottery was first introduced in the late 90s. Every payday I would swing by Racetrac (now Raceway) in Lindale and pick up eight or nine $1 scratch offs. Out of those eight or nine, I would hit $5, $10 or $25 on at least three of them. One time I took a chance on a $10 scratch ticket and won $100, my biggest win still to this day on a scratch off. A couple of years ago, to celebrate a bonus I got, I bought a $50 scratch off ticket. I didn't win anything. It hurt, yes, but I knew that could be the case which did help the sting of losing a little. Anytime I've won, I've cashed it in within a couple of days.

Forgetting a Prize?!

It sounds like a silly question but there have been some big jackpots that have gone unclaimed. Right now, there is a $1 million Powerball ticket that was sold in Houston that could go unclaimed if not turned in by January 15. Where would that $1 million go if the ticket isn't turned in?

Claiming a Winning Ticket

A Texas Lottery winner has 180 days (6 months) to claim their prize. A prize of $599 or less can be cashed in at any Lottery retailer. A prize of $600 to $5,000 can be cashed in through the Texas Lottery mobile app. Prizes between $5,000 and $2.5 million can be claimed by mailing in a claim form or at the Lottery Commission in Austin. Anything above $2.5 million must be claimed in person at the Lottery Commission claim offices in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio or Austin.

Texas Law - Section 466.408

Unclaimed lottery winnings are reverted back to the state and used for the Department of State Health Services, the Health and Human Services Commission, veterans' assistance and/or foundation school fund. There is a lot of legal speak but you can read the full law HERE.

So, in a way, if you don't claim your million dollar winnings, you basically donate it to the State of Texas for use in various state programs.

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