Lottery prizes aren't always claimed quickly

It's difficult to believe that $1 million simply could slip through the cracks. But when it comes to claiming one's winnings from the Oregon Lottery, it happens.

"There's been some pretty good-sized ones," said Chuck Baumann, spokesman for the Oregon Lottery. "In 1996, we had a $3.5 million Megabucks go unclaimed."

In all the excitement of announcing the winners of multi-million lottery prizes, other winners sometimes go overlooked. On Thursday, a Minnesota man won a portion of the $448 million jackpot in the powerball drawings.

But a couple of lucky people who bought tickets in Portland also saw big winnings — $1 million and $2 million big. They just haven't come forward yet to claim their earnings.

"Usually the higher the jackpot, the longer they wait to come in," Baumann said. "Generally it's because they're doing due diligence; talking to a financial planner and getting some legal advice. Having that much money is probably different for them compared to their current situation."

Lottery players in Oregon have up to one year after the drawing to claim their earnings, although most people come in within a month, Baumann said. It could be that they're hoping to avoid the swarm of publicity. It could be that they're taking time to cope with the news.

Other times, people who aren't regularly checking their tickets may not discover they had a winning one until months after the fact.

"We had a couple come in on July 19 with a $20,000 prize from the St. Patrick's Day raffle," Baumann said. "The winning numbers were announced March 14 and they didn't discover it until July, when they finally got around to checking it."

So what happens to all that unclaimed prize money? It goes right back to the state of Oregon; not back to the lottery to be dished out as future prizes, but to be distributed the same way lottery profits are.

"It's a little added bit of profit," Baumann said. "For example, in fiscal year 2012, we had nearly $5 million in unclaimed prizes. It's just part of the transfer the lottery makes to the state, just as any profits from the lottery are."

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