At a time when so many are strapped for cash, the prospect of a lottery win has never been more alluring. Yet according to figures obtained from the Ireland National Lottery, €14.7 million (US$18.9 million) in lottery prize money was left uncollected last year alone.
Whether they ended up down the back of the couch or in the wash, winning tickets worth €90 million have gone unclaimed in the last five years.
Among the forfeited windfalls last year were a €350,000 Plus 1 prize, from a ticket sold in Nutgrove Shopping Centre, south Dublin, in March, and a €250,000 Plus 2 prize, sold in Kildare town in June.
Under the rules, winners have 90 days to collect their prize, after which they forfeit any right to it.
The National Lottery uses the unclaimed pot, which equates to about 2 per cent of annual sales, to promote various games and draws either through jackpot top-ups or other marketing campaigns.
Under a new 20-year license to operate the business, however, the Government is considering insisting that the unclaimed pot goes to good causes, a practice common in other European lotteries.
"We suspect prize money goes unclaimed because people misplace or lose their tickets, or perhaps hear that the jackpot prize has been won in, say, Dublin and because they may have purchased their ticket elsewhere they don't bother to check for any other prize," the National Lottery's Paula McEvoy said.
"Our advice to everyone who plays a Lottery game is 'always check your ticket'. There are very substantial prizes, outside of the jackpot prizes, which are sometimes won but not collected"
"For example, a Lotto Match 5 plus bonus prize will win a player a guaranteed €25,000, and it's a real pity not to collect a prize as substantial as that just because a ticket went unchecked within the 90 day prize collection limit."
The biggest unclaimed win on record was for a €3.4 million jackpot, dating from June 30th, 2001. The ticket was sold in Coolock in Dublin, and despite a campaign to find the winner no one ever came forward.
Thanks to myturn for the tip.