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How long can you hold a winning Lottery ticket in Maryland?

Winning the lottery can be an incredibly exciting event. After the initial shock and celebration, lottery winners need to be sure they take the proper steps to claim their prize. One important consideration is how long a winning lottery ticket is valid. In Maryland, lottery winners have 182 days from the date of the drawing to claim their prize.

The Claims Process in Maryland

In Maryland, winning lottery tickets expire 182 days after the drawing date printed on the ticket. This means winners have roughly six months to complete the claims process. Here is a summary of the steps involved:

  • Sign the winning ticket – Winners should sign the back of the ticket right away for security.
  • Claim the prize – Winners must claim the prize within 182 days by mailing the signed ticket or bringing it to a Maryland Lottery claims center.
  • Provide identification – Valid photo ID is required, such as a driver’s license or passport.
  • Complete claims form – A Maryland Lottery claims form must be filled out.
  • Decide on payment – Winners must choose between an annuity paid out over many years or a one-time lump sum.
  • Attend press conference – For large jackpot prizes, the Lottery may hold a press conference and take a photo of the winner.

As long as winners complete all steps before the 182-day deadline, they will receive their full prize amount. Prizes expire and are forfeited if not claimed in time.

Reasons for the 182-Day Policy

Maryland isn’t unique in setting a 182-day expiration period for winning lottery tickets. Many other states have similar time limits, ranging from 90 days up to one year. There are a few key reasons lotteries impose these restrictions:

  • Finalize the game – A deadline provides a definitive end point for the lottery so they can close out a particular game.
  • Reduce liability – An expiration minimizes the lottery’s long-term financial liability for unclaimed prizes.
  • Prevent fraud – Lost or stolen tickets must be claimed quickly, reducing potential fraud.
  • Encourage prompt action – Winners are incentivized to start the claims process right away.

Without a deadline, game finances and logistics would remain open-ended. The 182-day policy balances giving players adequate time to claim prizes while allowing the Maryland Lottery to administer games responsibly.

Are Extensions or Exceptions Made?

The Maryland Lottery does not make exceptions to the 182-day rule. All winning tickets expire after this period. The closest option is the ability to file a petition for an expired prize. Here are the key details if a prize is not claimed in time:

  • The prize is forfeited. The Maryland Lottery keeps unclaimed prize money.
  • Winners can file a petition for an expired prize up to a year later.
  • If the petition is approved, the winner may receive the amount of the prize minus any funds already transferred to the Maryland General Fund.

This petition process is essentially the only recourse for prizes not claimed within the standard 182-day timeframe. Extensions are not granted, so it is critical to start the claims procedure right away.

What Happens When Prizes Expire?

Forfeited lottery prizes can quickly add up to significant money. In fiscal year 2020, nearly $20 million worth of winning Maryland Lottery tickets went unclaimed. Where does the money go when winning tickets are not cashed in within the 182-day period?

Expired Prize Amount $50,000 and under Over $50,000
Destination of Funds Remains in Prize Fund Transferred to Maryland General Fund

As shown in the table, smaller expired prizes under $50,000 remain in the Maryland Lottery’s Prize Fund to contribute toward future games and payouts. Larger unclaimed prizes over $50,000 are transferred to the state’s General Fund.

In fiscal year 2020, approximately $5.4 million in smaller expired prizes stayed in the Prize Fund while nearly $14.5 million in larger amounts went to the General Fund. While unfortunate for the winners, these expired prizes continue helping Maryland in different ways.

Tips to Avoid Missing the Deadline

To ensure you receive your full Maryland Lottery prize on time, here are some tips:

  • Sign it – Sign the back of the ticket immediately for security.
  • Make copies – Make several photocopies of the front and back of the ticket.
  • Secure it – Keep the signed ticket very secure until ready to claim the prize.
  • Get help – Consult financial advisors and legal counsel about the claims process.
  • Act quickly – Start the claims process as soon as possible. Waiting risks losing the ticket.
  • Mark your calendar – Note the 182-day deadline on your calendar so you don’t miss it.

Following these tips will help ensure you successfully complete the claims process within Maryland’s 182-day timeframe. With a little organization and prompt action, you can enjoy the thrill of winning without the risk of your prize expiring.

Checking Ticket Status and Expiration

If you need to check on the status and expiration date of a winning Maryland Lottery ticket, this can be done through the Lottery’s official website:

  • Visit and click “Check My Tickets”
  • Select the game you played from the dropdown menu
  • Enter the ticket number from the bottom of the ticket
  • Enter the ticket validation number under the latex covering
  • Select whether it was a winning or non-winning ticket
  • Click “Check Ticket” to see its status and expiration date

This online ticket checker will confirm whether your ticket can still be claimed or if the 182-day timeframe has already passed. Be sure to hold onto expired winning tickets in case you wish to file a petition for an expired prize.

How Unclaimed Prizes Have Added Up

Looking at the data over the past several years, we can see how much money the Maryland Lottery has retained from unclaimed prizes that reached expiration. The totals have steadily grown over time as lottery participation increased.

Fiscal Year Expired Unclaimed Prizes
2016 $11.7 million
2017 $15 million
2018 $16.2 million
2019 $17.6 million
2020 $19.9 million

Based on this data, we can project that the total for fiscal year 2021 likely exceeded $20 million. That’s a substantial amount contributed to state funds and future lottery prizes.

Biggest Expired Prizes

While most expired prizes are smaller amounts, occasionally jackpots or large tier prizes go unclaimed. Here are some notable sizeable prizes that reached expiration in recent years:

  • $1 million Powerball prize in 2011
  • $1 million Multi-Match prize in 2017
  • $50,000 Racetrax prize in 2019
  • $1 million Mega Millions prize in 2020

It’s always hard to see such significant unclaimed prizes expire, but it illustrates that big jackpots are truly at risk if winners don’t start the claims process right away.

Notable Cases of Expired Prizes

Looking closer at certain instances when larger prizes or unique situations resulted in forfeited winnings can help emphasize the importance of acting promptly:

2003 Powerball Jackpot

In 2003, a $10.8 million Powerball jackpot prize expired in Maryland. The ticket was purchased in Allegany County but never turned in. Despite extensive publicity efforts, the jackpot remained unclaimed. It stands as one of the largest prizes to go uncollected in the state’s lottery history.

2007 Mega Millions Near-Miss

A Maryland Mega Millions ticket worth $330,000 was turned in just one day after the 182-day deadline in 2007. The winner had apparently misplaced the ticket but then discovered it still in their possession after it expired. A valuable lesson that finding tickets at the last minute is often too late.

2016 Powerball Pool Error

A group of coworkers who pooled money to play Powerball ended up losing a $1 million prize due to a miscommunication. One member bought a ticket but did not tell the others. When the sole ticket holder realized they won, it was already one day past the deadline. Clear communication could have saved the group’s winnings.

Maryland Legislative Efforts Related to Unclaimed Prizes

Given the millions in unclaimed lottery prizes over the years, there have been some legislative attempts to potentially recover more of that money:

Extending Claims Deadline

In 2020, a Maryland bill was introduced to lengthen the time period winners have to claim prizes from 182 days to one year. It did not pass, but could signal future debate about extending the claims deadline.

Unclaimed Funds Repository

Legislation enacted in 2016 established an Unclaimed Property Fund as a central repository for unclaimed financial assets like lottery prizes. This creates more visibility around the status of outstanding prizes.

Voluntary Disclosure Program

A 2018 law set up a voluntary disclosure program allowing people to anonymously turn in old winning tickets to receive payment without penalties.

While none of these directly changed the core 182-day claims deadline, they demonstrate ongoing discussion around whether more can be done to pay out unclaimed monies.

Other States’ Time Limits to Claim Prizes

Maryland is certainly not the only state with a time limit for claiming lottery prizes. Every state lottery in the U.S. imposes some type of expiration date. Here are some examples of claims deadlines across different states:

  • California – 180 days
  • Texas – 180 days
  • New York – 1 year
  • Florida – 6 months
  • Pennsylvania – 1 year
  • Ohio – 180 days
  • Michigan – 1 year

The most common timeframes are 180 days, 6 months, and 1 year. So while Maryland’s 182 days falls on the shorter side, it aligns with many other large state lotteries. The wide variation in expiration periods means prize winners should always check their state’s exact claims requirements.

State Time Limit to Claim Prizes
California 180 days
Texas 180 days
New York 1 year
Florida 6 months
Pennsylvania 1 year
Ohio 180 days
Michigan 1 year

The Purpose and Process of Petitioning for Expired Prizes

As noted earlier, players who miss the 182-day deadline still have one option to potentially claim an expired prize – filing a petition. Here are the key details on this process:

  • Petitions must be submitted within 1 year of the drawing date.
  • The petition will be investigated and validated by the Lottery.
  • If approved, the winner may receive the prize amount minus money already transferred to the state.
  • The winner must agree to a press conference and publicity.

The petition provides a final chance for those who let a prize slip by the deadline. Lotteries make this option available as a gesture of goodwill to players and a sense of integrity. However, there is no guarantee petitions will be granted, and any previous transfers or taxes are still deducted. So it should not be considered a replacement for promptly claiming within the standard 182 days.

Petition Example

In 2015, a Maryland man requested a petition for an unclaimed $50,000 scratch-off prize. He stated he had misplaced the winning ticket but found it shortly after expiration. After investigation, his petition was approved. But because the $50,000 had already been transferred to the state, he only received around $25,000 of the funds back.

Petition Considerations

When deciding petitions, the Lottery will consider factors like:

  • When and how the ticket was discovered as a winner
  • Efforts made to claim the prize initially
  • Reasons for the missed deadline
  • Fairness to other winners who claimed properly

Approval is more likely if the winner has a compelling reason for being late and acted responsibly upon realizing they won. Nevertheless, filing quickly once discovered and providing documentation strengthens the chance of recovering some expired funds.


Claiming lottery prizes promptly is crucial. In Maryland, winners have 182 days after the drawing date to complete the claims process and secure their winnings. This strict deadline incentivizes winners to act quickly and enables the Lottery to administer games effectively. While unfortunate when prizes expire, the funds ultimately support good causes in the state. And lessons learned from missed deadlines help emphasize the importance of starting the claims steps right away after that big lottery win.