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The Missing Millions

December 1, 2019

What do you do after buying a lottery ticket? Shove it in your pocket? Neatly pin it to your bulletin board? Sure, it may just be a piece of paper. But that could be your ticket to winning big!

Imagine having won millions without even knowing? Most unclaimed lottery prizes are for “small amounts”, meaning it’s rare for prizes over $10,000 to go unclaimed, but 2006 saw one of the biggest missed opportunities ever when an Alberta player let their winning LOTTO 6/49 ticket—worth 14.9 million—expire. And back in 2004, another $5 million LOTTO 6/49 prize went unclaimed right here in Ontario!

And it doesn’t end there. On August 1, 2019, 26 unclaimed OLG prizes worth more than $4.4 million were set to expire. That’s a large number, but it’s good to know that players claim about 99% of OLG prize money each year. In 2018-19, the total value of prizes paid out was $2.38 billion!

While only a small number of players fail to claim their prize, it’s still surprising given they have up to a year to do so. In fact, OLG goes to great lengths to remind people about unclaimed tickets. By reaching out to news stations and newspapers in the area the tickets were bought, OLG makes efforts to alert those who haven’t cashed their tickets of $10,000 or more. OLG also announces all unclaimed tickets with prizes of $10,000 or more on its website.

A phone survey done by the OLG found that:

  • 38% of players will check their ticket immediately after the draw
  • 45% of players will check when they remember
  • 17% of players say they don’t check tickets regularly!

This feels like a good time to remind you to always check your ticket. So, here are some convenient ways to do so:

  • Check winning numbers on OLG.ca
  • Use the OLG Lottery App on your mobile device.
  • Use the self-serve Ticket Checker at your lottery terminal retailer.
  • Pick up a winning numbers printout from your lottery terminal retailer.
  • Sign your ticket and ask a lottery retailer to check it for you.

What happens to unclaimed lottery money?

Wondering what happened to that unclaimed $14.9 million? If a lottery game is operated solely in Ontario, such as LOTTARIO, unclaimed winnings go back to the province to benefit the people of Ontario. If it’s part of a national draw, such as LOTTO 6/49, unclaimed money is used to sweeten jackpots for future bonus games or promotions.

Learn more about OLG lottery games.