WASHINGTON — It's been nearly four weeks since the Mega Millions $1.337 billion prize found its match in a single Illinois ticket, but no one has come forward to claim the life-changing jackpot.
Rules for claiming a jackpot prize vary by state. In Illinois, the lottery allows up to a year for the new billionaire to come forward, but places a 60-day deadline to choose the lump sum or annuity payments. The winner has until late September to make that decision.
Even if someone comes forward, their identity might never be revealed. Illinois is one of the states where lottery winners of more than $250,000 can choose not to reveal their names.
But what happens if no one claims the $1.337 billion prize?
Unclaimed jackpot prizes aren't uncommon, though many may question why someone would miss the opportunity of becoming a millionaire overnight.
The price tag of becoming a lottery jackpot winner may sometimes outweigh the perks of the prize itself. Many winners have suffered personal setbacks and lawsuits or became victims of scams.
Despite the problems encountered by the winners, lottery officials favor publicly identifying winners to instill public trust in the games.
Where does the money go?
To date, there have only been three unclaimed jackpot prizes, according to the Ohio Lottery Commission Communications Director Danielle Frizzi-Babb.
"For Mega Millions, a percentage of sales is dedicated to the jackpot, so each state will receive their share back if the prize is not claimed," Frizzi-Babb said.
In some states, like Ohio, the money goes into an unclaimed prize fund. The three unclaimed jackpots were all from New York and happened early days of the game.
What are the biggest unclaimed jackpots?
- August 1, 2006 - $31 million - Unclaimed in Queens, N.Y.
- April 25, 2003 - $46 million - Unclaimed in Brooklyn, N.Y.
- December 24, 2002 - $68 million - Unclaimed in N.Y.