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$31M in Unclaimed Lotto Prizes; Are You a Winner? [AUDIO]

If you play the New Jersey Lottery, you may want to check your wallet, clean out your drawers and dig deep into your pockets.

Powerball Jackpot
Scott Olson, Getty Images

Lottery officials are searching for the winner of a $1 million Powerball ticket that is set to expire on May 17, 2013. The ticket was purchased on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 in Middlesex County at the Super Stop & Shop on Summerfield Boulevard and Route 522 in South Brunswick. The winning numbers are 03, 07, 21, 28 and 43 and the Red Powerball number is 02.

Lottery Has $31 Million in Unclaimed Prizes

“Every lottery has a certain amount of unclaimed prizes because every game that every lottery sells will have winning tickets that, for one reason or another, never get claimed,” said Carole Hedinger, executive director of the New Jersey Lottery. “This year alone, we anticipate we may have about $31 million of unclaimed prizes, but that amount has been decreasing year by year. As we’ve deployed validating machines in retail locations, people have been able to check their own tickets and that’s cut down greatly on the amount of unclaimed prizes.”

It’s uncommon for large prizes to go unclaimed.

“I think for the most part, people are aware of the value of a large prize so they look for those things,” said Hedinger. “I think people overlook small prizes and sometimes people are traveling through the state and buy a ticket worth 10 or 15 dollars, and they may not bother to get it cashed because they’re in transit. We have a lot of people who travel through New Jersey and there’s no telling how many people buy tickets here and go right out of state.”

The state usually sells $2.8 billion in lottery tickets annually, and while $31 million is a lot of money, it’s a small percentage of total sales.

“Unclaimed prize money goes back into our lottery funds and we use it to augment prizes for second chance games to give some of that money back to players and 30 percent of the money goes back to the state for education and institutions,” said Hedinger.

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