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If lottery prize not claimed, other players win

People buy lottery tickets at the Cards and

People buy lottery tickets at the Cards and Things store in Rocky Point where a winning Mega Millions ticket worth $165 million was sold. (Dec. 28, 2009) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Even if no winner comes forward to claim last week's $162-million Mega Millions jackpot, some of the money will still wind up in the pockets of a lottery player - or possibly dozens of players - according to state lottery officials.

That's because the New York Lottery recirculates unclaimed prizes into its other games, officials said.

There's no reason to suspect last week's ticket-holder, who purchased the ticket at a Rocky Point shop, won't come forward within a year, as required, said lottery spokeswoman Jennifer Givner. But just in case, the state lottery maintains an "unclaimed prize fund" with forsaken winnings from various games, she said. The winning numbers are 3, 33, 35, 39, 45 - and the Megaball, 13.

>>VIDEO: Click here to see LIers speculate about the unclaimed Mega Millions ticket

The money is used to supplement lottery prizes, Givner said. The amount in the kitty is ever-changing, but yesterday it stood at $26.5 million. "That money goes right back to the players," she said, adding it is "far too early to speculate" that last week's winnings could go unclaimed.

Because several states participate in Mega Millions, New York Lottery can only keep some - probably about 20 percent - of abandoned prize money from the game, Givner said. But as only three Mega Millions prizes have gone unclaimed in seven years, the odds are good that a winner eventually comes forward, she said.

"With the holidays," Givner said, "it's probably just hard to get a lawyer."

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