What happens to the $63 million if no one claims California lottery ticket?

If no one claims the $63-million lottery ticket by the time it expires Thursday evening, where does that money go?

The short answer: It goes to schools.

The longer answer is more complicated: At the beginning of each fiscal year, the California Lottery Commission projects the sales it will have and how much of that will go to education. For fiscal year 2015-16, the commission projected $6 billion in sales, and $1.4 billion in education contributions, according to the California Department of Education.

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Almost all of the money that goes to schools comes from sales. Any unclaimed prize money is added to the amount already allocated, said lottery spokesman Alex Traverso. So if no one appears with the $63-million ticket, the money will be put into an unclaimed prize fund that is given to schools.

This would be the largest single unclaimed prize in the California lottery’s history, and more than schools usually receive from unclaimed prizes. Last fiscal year, a total of $27.2 million from unclaimed prizes went to schools. 

Keep in mind that even $1.4 billion doesn’t actually translate to very much per student -- about $181 per student during the 2015-16 fiscal year, according to education department estimates. In total, lottery contributions account for less than 2% of total K-12 funding in the state. 

School districts throughout the state each receive the same amount of money for each student, so no one school will be making a $63-million windfall from the unclaimed ticket. A recent analysis argued that the way the state distributes lottery money is unfair, because, overall, poor districts spend much more on lottery tickets than rich districts -- but they still get about the same amount of money per student.

And the unclaimed money might not even get to schools for a while. Schools get lottery money every quarter. So, ideally, the unclaimed money would reach schools sometime during the spring, Traverso said.

But there’s a hitch. One man is now suing lottery officials, claiming that he had the winning SuperLotto Plus ticket but that the evidence was “destroyed.”

No schools would get the money, Traverso said, until that case is settled. 

Reach Sonali Kohli on Twitter @Sonali_Kohli or by email at Sonali.Kohli@latimes.com.


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