A woman who contacted us on Facebook had a question about a situation that may have happened to you, too. In her case, she was doing some spring cleaning and found a couple old lottery tickets. She wondered if she could still cash them. The tickets she found were from scratch games that ended a few years ago, so the deadlines for claiming prizes in them had passed.
But we’ve had folks contact us about lottery tickets that were far older than that. In one recent instance, someone sent us a ticket from one of the lottery’s first scratch games back in the 1980s and wondered if the prize from it could still be claimed. The short answer was no.
From a record-keeping perspective, the lottery establishes end dates for its scratch and pull-tab games and the corresponding expiration dates for prizes in them. There also are deadlines for claiming prizes in our lotto games (365 days from the date of the drawing in Powerball®, Mega Millions®, Hot Lotto®, All or Nothing™ and Lucky for Life®; and 90 days from the date of the drawing in Iowa’s Pick 3 and Pick 4 games).
Technology has changed so much that our equipment today can’t check tickets from years ago. And simply from a space perspective – physical or electronic – it would be nearly impossible to maintain decades’ worth of the detailed records necessary for a lottery prize to be claimed. Those realities dictate that there are deadlines by which lottery prizes need to be claimed.
The good news is that money from unclaimed prizes here in Iowa goes into the lottery’s prize pools for future games and promotions, so it will be used to pay prizes, just not those prizes that have expired.
We keep several items on our website to help folks track our games and prizes. For our pull-tab and scratch games, we keep lists of those games where ticket distribution has recently ended; and the deadlines by which prizes must be claimed in those games that have official end dates. For our lotto games, we keep a list of prizes of $5,000 or more that are still unclaimed.
Bottom line, if you have won a lottery prize, claim it quickly so you don’t have to worry about things like games that have ended and prizes that have expired.