A Mega Millions jackpot winner from Iowa failed to cash in their ticket before it expired this week, but one person’s loss will be another’s gain. That unclaimed million-dollar prize will sweeten the pot for the state lottery’s annual holiday promotion, putting a positive spin on the time-related misfortune.
The ticket, purchased last year at The Filling Station/Gateway Expresse in Ames, matched all five white ball numbers for the Sept. 6, 2022 draw. The win earned the unidentified ticket holder the $1 million prize.
Unfortunately, Mega Millions winners have only one year to claim their prize. This winner never showed up. So, as of the close of business on Sept. 6, 2023, the winning ticket has become void. That doesn’t mean the lottery is keeping the money, however.
Iowa Lottery’s Mary Neubauer told Bonus via email that money from unclaimed tickets always gets returned to the lottery’s prize pool for future games and promotions. So, all the prize money eventually winds up in some players’ pockets, just not the original winners if they fail to claim their prize.
The lottery has discretion about where and how they’ll apply the extra funds. In this case, Neubauer said, the annual holiday promotion is just around the corner. So, the lottery decided to use the unclaimed million to boost Iowans’ holiday cheer.
We’re only about a month away from the start of the Iowa Lottery’s annual holiday promotion. So we’re going to give that promotion a huge bump up this year with the $1 million!
While the lottery is still working out the final details, people can enter the million-dollar promotion using any nonwinning holiday scratch tickets. The holiday-themed scratch games fueling the promotion aren’t on sale yet but will debut in Iowa closer to December.
Neubauer said people should watch for more details coming from the lottery over the next few weeks.
Lottery Remined Players to Check Tickets
Though it’s now making the best of an unfortunate situation, the lottery did its best to locate the million-dollar Mega Millions winner before the ticket expired. Neubauer said that effort begins as soon as a big prize is won.
In this case, the lottery started by announcing the $1 million win on Sept. 7, 2022. The announcement highlighted that the win occurred at Gateway Express in Ames the night before.
Following that initial announcement, the lottery regularly reminded players to double-check their tickets throughout the 365-day claim period.
On June 6, with three months left for the winner to claim the prize, the lottery held an event at the store in Ames. There, they installed special signage about the unclaimed prize, that remained up until the deadline.
The lottery also shared videos across its social media channels to highlight the unclaimed prize, hoping to jog the winner’s memory.
All those efforts, said Neubauer, were in addition to many media interviews about the unclaimed prize done over the past year.
We’ve said it many times, but we truly want all our lottery prizes to be claimed, and we work hard to remind people that the unclaimed winnings are out there!
Around the country, frantic treasure hunts have sometimes resulted when lottery winners know they played the winning numbers but can’t find the ticket. There was no such excitement in Iowa this time.
Unclaimed Million Effectively a “Holiday Bonus”
One clue as to what might have happened to the ticket is that Gateway Express sold it last year as the Labor Day long weekend wrapped up.
That same weekend, Iowa State won its football home opener against South East Missouri State, so the area saw a sudden influx of visitors. If someone from out of state held the winning ticket, they might have missed the bulletins.
Jeanette Mesecher, operations manager at The Filling Station/Gateway Expresse, recalled in the Lotto’s June 6 release that Ames was especially busy that weekend.
This unclaimed prize is something that folks talk about every day in our store. But we know a lot of people traveled to Ames that weekend. We keep telling people to check their tickets!
Iowa Lottery CEO Matt Strawn echoed this and urged players to stay on top of their tickets in the same release.
This is a real-world demonstration of why the Iowa Lottery reminds all players to always check their ticket results. We want all lottery prizes to be claimed by their winners – especially a potentially life-changing prize of $1 million.
For Iowans, the silver lining is that even when prizes go unclaimed, they go back into the pot for future winners. In a video announcing the fate of the unclaimed money, Neubauer said the prize boost is definitely a holiday bonus.
The Iowa Lottery currently lists 113 other unclaimed prizes in the state, ranging from $625 to $150,000.