A little over a month ago, $1.33 billion, the third-largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history, was won by someone who purchased their Mega Millions ticket right here in Illinois at a Speedway gas station in Des Plaines. When you look at that kind of money, you wonder why the winner has not announced themselves to lottery officials yet.

I'm sure it takes a few days to find the proper financial advisor, accountant, and/or security team, but if it were you that had won, would the jackpot still be unclaimed?

Not if it were me, but I really don't envision ever having to deal with that problem.

"United States dollars and a calculator showing 1,000,000,000."
Not to brag, but I could easily afford that calculator. (Getty Images)
Steel peter with a vast amount of money
I can't afford anything here, but I would roll around in it. (Getty Images)

Illinois Law Gives Winners One Year To Claim Their Winnings In A Lottery Jackpot

I understand how that can be a good thing if you're someone who just discovered a winning ticket from months ago at the bottom of your laundry pile because you forgot that you played on a certain date.

But I've got to assume that those who bought a ticket or tickets for that billion-dollar Mega Millions jackpot would be paying very close attention to the winning numbers, and would know nearly instantly that they've been rocketed into a higher tax bracket.

With a billion dollars at stake, I'm pretty sure I'd be the guy standing in the doorway at lottery headquarters when they opened for business the next day.

Getty Images
It could be this dude. (Getty Images)
woman wearing a paper bag with questions mark
Maybe it's her. (Getty Images)

Here's What Happens If That $1.3 Billion Mega Millions Jackpot Goes Unclaimed

If you're hoping for a refund of your ticket money, that's not going to happen. What actually takes place is this:

  • The states that participate in Mega Millions (there are 45, plus Washington, DC) get back the money that their state contributed to the overall jackpot.
  • After that, the states get to decide for themselves what they do with the money.
  • Many states will use the funds to support education, or even use it to offset costs of future lottery prizes

According to WGNTV.com, here's what would happen in Illinois with our share of the unclaimed jackpot:

Illinois, for example, would transfer its part of the jackpot to the Illinois Common School Fund, which supports K-12 education in the state, a spokesperson tells Nexstar. Most states make similar contributions, like Vermont, where most of the unclaimed prize money is used for the Vermont Education Fund.

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