Australian Lottery Winner Almost Misses Out on $26M Prize

Posted on: March 10, 2023, 07:03h. 

Last updated on: March 10, 2023, 11:50h.

A man in Western Australia had AU$40 million (US$26.32 million) sitting in his pocket for a week without realizing it. It was in the form of a lottery ticket that he forgot he had bought, and one trip through the washing machine could have ended in disaster.

An Australian Lottery sign outside a retailer
An Australian Lottery sign outside a retailer. A $40M winner carried around a ticket in his pocket for a week without realizing he had won. (Image: South Western Times)

The man’s identity is still under wraps, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, although he purchased the ticket at a convenience store in Bennett Springs. The store owner told reporters that it had celebrated a number of AU$1-million (US$658,000) winners over the years, but nothing ever as big as this.

The new multimillionaire, described as a grandfather, bought the ticket just an hour before last Saturday’s Powerball draw. He then shoved the ticket in his pocket and forgot it.

$40 Million and Fish And Chips

A regular at the convenience store, the man made another trip back on Thursday. It was then that someone at the store brought up the lottery. The new winner pulled out his ticket to check his numbers, finding out he was sitting on a fortune.

At least initially, he doesn’t expect his newfound wealth to change his lifestyle significantly. In celebration of the windfall, he and his family dined on fish and chips, a relatively tame meal given the situation.

He did say, however, some changes will be coming. The winner said trips to see the world are now on the menu, with business class the only way to travel.

The lottery winner wasn’t at risk of losing his money if he didn’t come forward now. Lottery winners in Australia typically have 12 months to claim their prizes, although COVID-19 brought a 12-month extension to the window.

One winner, also from Western Australia, waited 22 months before coming forward. If it hadn’t been for the extra time, the player would have lost out on a $1 million prize.

The grandfather wasn’t the only big lottery winner in Australia recently. A couple in Victoria won AU$20 million (US$13.16 million) this past Tuesday in the Oz Lotto. Then, on Thursday, a South Australian women won AU$4.6 million (US$3.02 million).

You Snooze, You Lose

Different countries have different rules about how long winners have to claim prizes. In the UK, for example, the limit is 180 days. In the US, depending on the state, winners typically have between three and 12 months.

The short windows mean that lottery players have to be more diligent, which doesn’t always happen. In 2012, a British player won £64 million (US$76.46 million), but either never realized it or decided not to become wealthy.

The six-month window closed and the prize was never claimed. As a result, in accordance with the National Lottery charter, Camelot, the lottery operator at the time, donated the money to charitable organizations.

That wasn’t the only big-ticket loss. A similar situation played out a year earlier in the US. In Georgia, someone won $77 million, but never claimed the winnings.

New York has had two big winners disappear. In 2002, a $68 million prize was left on the table, and in 2006, no one bothered coming forward to claim a $46 million lottery win. In both cases, the money went back to the prize pool.

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