Check your lottery tickets: Millions go unclaimed in North Carolina

File image of a lottery ticket.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With the Powerball jackpot climbing to half a billion dollars, people flocked to stores to get their tickets for Wednesday’s big drawing.

Wednesday’s jackpot is the highest lottery prize in nearly a year, and the sixth-highest ever in North America.

“I can pay my house loan off and maybe buy a new car,” said Darlene Espy.

Even though the odds of winning the jackpot are slim (1 in 292 million), many players will win smaller prizes. However, some will never claim them.

According to Kathleen Jacob, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Education Lottery, about $27.7 million in prizes went unclaimed in fiscal year 2015. The year before, unclaimed prizes totaled $28.1 million.

So, what happens to that unclaimed money?

Jacob said under state law, half goes toward funding future drawings. The other half goes toward education spending, including classroom teachers, assistants and college scholarships. To see a breakdown of how the lottery funds education, click here.

In fiscal year 2015, about $13.8 million in unclaimed prize money went toward education, Jacob said.

Many of the unclaimed prizes are between $1 and $5. However, roughly 114 prizes worth $1 million or more were never claimed in 2015, according to CNN. About $2 billion in prize winnings goes unclaimed each year in the United States.

In North Carolina, you have 180 days to claim your prize for drawings such as Powerball. For scratch-off ticket prizes, “you have 90 days from the official announced end of the game,” according to the lottery’s website.

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