The whereabouts of a Mega Millions ticket worth $1.537 billion ($878 million cash) remains unknown, and the clock is ticking for it to be cashed in before the small piece of paper becomes worthless.

Mega Millions jackpot Powerball winner

Last fall’s Mega Millions winner still hasn’t come forward. (Image: Charlie Neibergall/AP)

The Mega Millions ticket was sold last October in South Carolina at the KC Mart in Simpsonville. It matched the six numbers on the Tuesday night, October 23 draw – 5, 28, 62, 65, 70, and Mega Ball 5.

The $1.537 billion jackpot is the largest single payout in US lottery history. Powerball narrowly has the largest overall jackpot ever – $1.586 billion – but that was won and split between three winners.

In South Carolina, Mega Millions players have 180 days to claim their winnings. That means the deadline for the anonymous owner of the ticket to come forward is April 21.

Ticket Odds

After Mega Millions gameplay was overhauled in 2017 by increasing the number of Mega Ball numbers from 15 to 25, the odds of hitting the jackpot swelled from one in 258.9 million, to one in 302.5 million. The odds of the winning $1.537 billion ticket being lost are shortening by the day.

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

If it isn’t turned in, South Carolina will lose more than $60 million in taxes the person would owe on the jackpot.

“If the ticket goes unclaimed, Mega Millions will return the funds to its member states,” South Carolina Education Lottery Holli Armstrong told the CBS affiliate in Charleston. “In South Carolina, that would be about $11 million returned as unclaimed prize money used to support education.”

The owner of the KC Mart would also miss out on a $50,000 check for selling the winning Mega Millions ticket.

In 2017, a man found a New York Lottery ticket worth $24.1 million stuffed in an old shirt just hours before it was set to expire. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Seventeen years ago, a winning Mega Millions jackpot ticket worth $68 million went unclaimed in New York. And in 2007, again in New York, a $31 million ticket disappeared.

Four years later, a $77 million Powerball ticket purchased in Georgia passed the deadline without being turned in to lottery officials.

Interstate Lotteries

The 2019 Wire Act opinion issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel threatens to jeopardize the future of Powerball and Mega Millions.

Engel reversed a DOJ 2011 opinion that concluded the 1961 federal law banned only the interstate transmissions of bets relating to sports wagering. Engel’s opinion is that it prohibits all forms of gambling.

Five states – Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, and New Hampshire – allow the selling of Powerball and Mega Millions tickets over the internet. Since both games are interstate in nature, the new Wire Act interpretation could impact how tickets are purchased.

MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren said this week the opinion is absurd. “It would mean that Powerball as it exists in 44 states in the United States isn’t legal anymore,” the executive stated.