The UK National Lottery has been responsible for producing some huge winners over its years of existence. Only in September of last year, it was reported that 47 tickets had won prizes of £1 million or more. And while it is always great to see that big winners are being made so frequently, there also remains a number of lottery wins that have never been claimed by anyone. This doesn’t just relate to huge wins either, but there are various smaller wins that go by without anyone claiming them. Why is it that these winners never come forward and pick up what is theirs?
That is what we intend to find out today. And what is more, what happens if someone has a winning lottery ticket, but they have passed away or gone missing before they are able to claim it? Can someone else step into their shoes and claim the winnings for them? Furthermore, how much in prize money still remains unclaimed from National Lottery wins?
What Does Lottery Do With Unclaimed Wins?
Imagine that you have won millions of pounds after buying a National Lottery ticket, but you don’t claim the winnings. It is a pretty unthinkable scenario, right? However, it happens more often than you may think. Other things get in the way of life and create circumstances where it is not possible to claim a win. In this respect, what exactly is the procedure that the National Lottery follows for unclaimed winnings?
It was only recently that a story broke out about a £20 million jackpot prize going unclaimed, with a large scale hunt on to find the victor. On January 15 this year, it was reported that an unwitting gambler had scooped the previous week’s special Must Be Won draw. Bosses said that nobody had come forward to claim the funds though, despite the ticket being bought online and being easy enough for the player to figure out. In this circumstance, and many others, what does the lottery do?
According to official information from the National Lottery, every player has a total of 180 days from the day of the draw to claim their prize, be that a £10 win or a £1 million win. The details of all unclaimed prizes are released around two weeks after the draw has taken place, meaning that players have a reasonable amount to time following this to have a chance to check their tickets. It also gives a potential winner who may have lost their lottery ticket the opportunity to contact the National Lottery. This should be done in writing before the 30th day following the draw.
It will then become the aim of the National Lottery to try and locate and contact the winner of the prize. It does this by organising certain campaigns, which get people talking about it, as with the aforementioned £20 million jackpot winner. The media always have it in mind to speak with a big winner, which makes this a prime route to follow to hype the unclaimed winnings up. Interviews with the media and stunts to try and find whoever the lucky winner is are usually organised. Further to this, the National Lottery shares details of the unclaimed prize on Facebook and Twitter, allowing more people to hear about it. The largest unclaimed prizes are listed on the official lottery website.
Should the 180 days after the draw not produce a claimant, then the prize money associated with that, plus all of the interest that it may have generated while held in a trust, will go to National Lottery-funded projects all around the United Kingdom.
Recent Unclaimed Lottery Prizes
|Game||Unclaimed Prize||Area Purchased||Last Claim Date|
|EuroMillions||£1,000,000||Metropolitan Borough of Walsall||17/03/2021|
|Set for Life||£10,000 every month for one year||London Borough of Sutton||19/06/2021|
|EuroMillions||£128,796||City of Salford||23/06/2021|
|Set for Life||£10,000 every month for one year||London Borough of Ealing||26/06/2021|
|EuroMillions||£1,000,000||Borough of Brentwood||30/06/2021|
|EuroMillions||£72,215.20||Borough of Wellingborough||30/06/2021|
|Set for Life||£10,000 every month for one year||Cheshire East||20/07/2021|
As noted, it is frequently the case that big winners will either not realise they have a pile of money waiting for them, or something else will have stopped them from claiming it. This is why the National Lottery has a section on its website with the largest unclaimed winnings. As of the moment, these extend back to September of 2020, with 10 prize pots not yet having a claimant. They can be seen in the table above.
For the moment, combining all those unclaimed prizes in the table, more than £5.5 million is waiting to be picked up. However, this does not reflect the smaller prizes that have gone unclaimed, so the overall total is most definitely higher than this. That is nothing though, because in the past, there have been numerous instances of huge wins going unclaimed beyond the 180-day period that the National Lottery provides.
In 2012, a winner from the Stevenage or Hitchin area of Hertfordshire missed out on gaining his or her £63.8 million EuroMillions prize. That has gone down as the biggest unclaimed lottery win in history, and likely left many people slightly stunned at the fact that nobody came forward to claim it. And it is not something that only affects the UK National Lottery. Unclaimed prize scenarios are experienced around the world, with a $77.1 million winning ticket bought in Georgia, the United States in 2011 never being found, a $63 million winner from California never being located in 2015 and a $31 million prize winner in Queens, New York never coming forward in 2006.
Reasons Why Lottery Wins Go Unclaimed
It can honestly be said that if you are in-the-know of such a huge lottery win, you would be very likely to proceed with claiming the payout from it. After all, jackpots usually offer life-changing amounts of money to winners. And many people want the possibility of changing their lives for the better. That left us wondering why so many lottery prizes go unclaimed around the world.
The primary reason why most people do not claim their winnings is that they are actually unaware that the victory is theirs. They will either forget that they have bought a lottery ticket for that draw or, in some cases, outrightly buy a ticket and believe the odds are so stacked against them that it cannot be their win. This leads to them not even checking their ticket numbers against the winning ones.
As well as this, some people also lose their winning lottery ticket. This frequently means that people believe they have no course of action to take should they consider themselves to be a potential winner. However, this is not the case. When you buy a ticket, this exists as your proof of entry into the draw. Therefore, if it goes missing, you cannot make any lottery win claim via a retailer or Post Office. Instead, you need to contact the National Lottery with an appeal to them. Providing as much information as possible with regard to your ticket (including where it was purchase and at what time, the name of the lottery game you played, which draw the ticket was valid for and so on) will help your case. A better way of avoiding this situation is to play the National Lottery online, resulting in no chance of losing a ticket.
Sometimes it is the case that people are not actually aware of the fact that secondary prizes can be won through purchasing a single lottery ticket. Take, for example, the EuroMillions game. Every time a player purchases a ticket for this, they are also automatically entered into the UK Millionaire Maker game as well. This guarantees that there will be a £1 million winner in the UK with every single draw that occurs. However, because most people are much more focused on the main EuroMillions game that they have wagered on numbers for, the UK Millionaire Maker is something that is largely forgettable. As you can see from the list of unclaimed prizes previously, many of them are £1 million wins from the EuroMillions relating to this.
One other point to mention here is that there are many people who are not bothered about claiming small amounts from lottery wins. Granted, receiving a £5 payout is nowhere near as exciting as being the winner of a £500,000 prize. However, this does mean that multiple smaller wins are left unclaimed and do build up to quite the hefty amount in themselves. The issue with these is that they do not get as much focus placed on finding their winners as the large jackpots do, because there just isn’t enough time in a day to do this for such a small amount. Therefore, these frequently go by without being claimed and the funds are sent to the good causes project previously mentioned.
Finally, there is also the possibility that the player who has purchased the ticket has passed away or gone missing before the draw is made. This leaves a ticket left lying about somewhere or even in an online account that others do not know about. In this circumstance though, what happens if someone else does find the winning lottery ticket of someone who has passed away? Can they claim the winnings?
In Circumstances of Death, Who Gets the Money?
Even though this is quite the rare scenario to unfold, it is certainly a possibility. What does happen when someone dies before they are able to claim their lottery winnings? Well, if they have died and nobody knows about the lottery ticket they have purchased, then the money proceeds to be handed over to the good causes project after the aforementioned 180 days. On the other hand, if someone finds the ticket and realises it is a winning one, can they claim the money?
Well, there really is not anything to stop someone from taking such a ticket to a retailer and cashing in the money. After all, when you buy a physical ticket, there is no proof that you are or are not the person to have done so. This is exactly the same process as people who have found lost lottery tickets and tried to claim the winnings from such.
That was the case for Amanda and Michael Stacey, who found a lottery ticket on the floor of a supermarket back in 2009. The couple took it on the off chance that it was a winning ticket, and lo and behold, it was! £30,000 was the prize money and the duo made off with it, spending half of it on clearing debts, buying new carpets and treating their children. However, Dorothy McDonagh, a 61-year-old lady who had bought the ticket contacted Camelot to say that she had mislaid it somewhere. Imagine her distress when she was informed that the jackpot win had been claimed! The Staceys were given 11-month jail sentences, suspended for two years, after they admitted to charges of fraud. They were also ordered to pay back the £15,000 that they had already spent.
In the case of someone dying though, there is no chance of the actual winner contacting Camelot to say their money has been taken. Someone could very easily locate the lottery ticket of a winner who has passed away and claim the money for themselves with very minimal chance of repercussion. However, this is not a legal route to take, and fraud of this nature is a very immoral thing to do. Honesty is always the best policy with these things. And if you are someone who plays the lottery with physical tickets, then some sage advice is to put a signature on it somewhere to verify that you bought it. Otherwise, as noted earlier, play online instead.