Time Running Out for Winner to Claim $1.5 Billion Mega Millions Prize

February 15, 2019 Updated: February 15, 2019

Time is running out for the winner to claim the prize of $1.5 billion in theMega Millions lottery.

The lottery winner was announced on Oct. 23, 2018. It was sold at a convenience store in Simpsonville, South Carolina.

The clock started that day and has only 64 remaining days South Carolina Lottery spokeswoman Holli Armstrong told The Associated Press (AP).

State officials on Feb. 14 removed the estimated $61 million in taxes they expected to get from the lottery winner from estimates.

Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office Executive Director Frank Rainwater said it was safer to prepare now for not getting the money versus expecting the winner will eventually come forward.

“It was reasonable to assume that in November,” Rainwater said. “But two-thirds or three-quarters of the way through … they have not come forward.”

It’s rare for such a large prize, the second-largest in lottery history, to go unclaimed. The last large Mega Millions prize to go unclaimed was a $63 million jackpot in New York.

In addition to the state, the store that sold the ticket, KC Mart, would also miss out. If the prize is claimed the store gets 1 percent of the value of the winnings, as it does whenever a ticket it sells wins over $10,000, reported WOLO. In this case, that would be some $50,000.

If the ticket isn’t claimed, the 44 states that participate in the lottery will each get the money they sold in tickets for the prize back. In South Carolina, that would be $11 million, reported the AP. By law, that money would be spent on education.

Speculation about why the winner hasn’t cashed in yet includes the ticket being lost, the winner not realizing they won, and other theories.

“I could understand there might have been tax advantages to wait until 2019,” David Stevenson, a CPA in South Carolina, told USA Today. “But I see no purpose in waiting now. Honestly, I think it’s lost.”

store that sold lottery ticket
In this Oct. 24, 2018, file photo, media, left record people entering the KC Mart in Simpsonville, S.C., after it was announced the winning Mega Millions lottery ticket was purchased at the store. Officials confirmed on Feb. 14, 2019, that the winner of the $1.5 billion lottery has still not come forward. (Jeffrey Collins,/AP Photo,File)

If the ticket isn’t claimed, the 44 states that participate in the lottery will each get the money they sold in tickets for the prize back. In South Carolina, that would be $11 million, reported the AP. By law, that money would be spent on education.

Speculation about why the winner hasn’t cashed in yet includes the ticket being lost, the winner not realizing they won, and other theories.

“I could understand there might have been tax advantages to wait until 2019,” David Stevenson, a CPA in South Carolina, told USA Today. “But I see no purpose in waiting now. Honestly, I think it’s lost.”

Powerball and Mega Millions lottery tickets
Powerball and Mega Millions lottery tickets are displayed on January 3, 2018, in San Anselmo, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

[Even if the winner does come forward, South Carolina is one of several states where winners can choose to remain anonymous. In that case, the state would still announce that the prize had been claimed.

Stevenson said no one has come to him for advice based on winning the prize.

“I keep waiting for them to walk into my door and ask me to do their taxes,” Stevenson said. “Of course, the cost of preparing their return might go up a bit from $200, but I would be nice about it.”

a lottery ticket
A ticket is seen ahead of the Mega Millions lottery draw which reached a jackpot of $415 Million in Manhattan, New York, U.S., July 1, 2016. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

A ticket is seen ahead of the Mega Millions lottery draw which reached a jackpot of $415 Million in Manhattan, New York on July 1, 2016. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)[/caption]

Jackpot Came in Under Record

The lottery ended up at $1.537 billion, just under the record high of $1.586 billion Powerball jackpot won in January 2016, lottery officials said.

Most lottery winners take a lump-sum payment instead of waiting for payments over time. If the South Carolina winner does that, they’d get about $877.8 million.

“The final total was less than the $1.6 billion estimate,” Carol Gentry, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Lottery, which leads a consortium of state lotteries participating in the Mega Millions jackpot, told the AP.

“Estimates are based on historical patterns. The jackpot’s been rolling since it was hit in July in California, but there are few precedents for a jackpot of this size. Typically about 70 percent of sales occur on the drawing day, so forecasting precise numbers in advance can be difficult. That’s why we always use the term estimate.”

The prize grew so large because it had been nearly three months before anyone matched all six numbers, which is necessary to win the top prize. Before the winning numbers were announced in October, the last time was on July 24, when 11 co-workers from California won a $543 million prize.

From NTD News

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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