There may have not been any real Mega Millions jackpot winners from Virginia, but that doesn’t mean the commonwealth came out empty handed.
Five tickets from Virginia won the second level of prizes at $250,000, with thousands of others winning much smaller prizes.
However, the biggest winner of this Mega Millions lottery was the Virginia public school system, which gets $21 million from the lottery that ran from the initial drawing on Jan. 24 and ended last Friday, when it reached a record-high of $656 million.
“For every dollar spent on a lottery product, somewhere between 30 and 33 cents is profit,” said Jennifer Mullen, communication manager for the Virginia Lottery. “All of our profit, all of our proceeds go to public education K-12.”
Virginia public schools also benefit if no one turns in the winning tickets, such as the five $250,000 winners from Friday. Winners have exactly 180 days to claim their prize money, but after that date, they no longer hold rights to their spoils.
“We do have unclaimed tickets, that certainly does happen,” Mullen said. “What happens is, by law, it is directed to go to the literary fund. The literary fund is used for educational purposes — things like school construction, renovation and teacher retirement funding.”
In fiscal year 2011, $10.8 million was rolled into the literary fund because of unclaimed tickets.
And while having someone try to turn in a ticket beyond the 180-day period is rare, having people dispute ownership of a ticket isn’t all that
“That has certainly happened in the history of this lottery, as I’m sure it has at every other lottery,” Mullen said.
“There have certainly been disputes over tickets in the past, which is why we always say the first thing you should do is sign the back of your ticket, because then what we do is verify your signature against the identification that you have to supply.”
These disputes arise from the fact that lottery tickets are considered “bearer instruments,” meaning they are owned by whoever is in possession of them.
In all cases, winning tickets must be taken to one of the Virginia Lottery’s offices to be verified for authenticity.