Ever heard the idiom “Sitting on a Gold mine”. It is generally defined as the possession or access to something that will yield a very large amount of money, without one realising it.
Every year around the world thousands of people are doing the textbook definition of this, by purchasing lottery tickets, winning, and not claiming the prizes. More often than not these are life-changing amounts of money. But for whatever reason, these individuals are failing to come forward and claim them.
I know what you are thinking “wild horses couldn’t drag you away from claiming a big lottery win” right? After all, people have tried to fraudulently claim lottery prizes, why would you not do this legitimately if you could? Surely that is what you play the lottery for?
In this article, we will take a look at some of the largest unclaimed lottery winnings, the reasons why this might happen, and what happens to the money in such an event?
Has there ever been an unclaimed lottery ticket in the UK?
Very much so. In fact, according to data from Camelot (the current UK National Lottery operator) in the financial year of 2018/2019, 3% of the £4.1 Billion total prize fund was unclaimed lotto prizes. This equates to £125.1 million
The problem is such that the National lottery even has a page of its website dedicated to listing the National Lottery’s unclaimed tickets, in the hope that the biggest lotto winners will come forward.
This amount is inclusive of thousands of small wins, often originating from unclaimed scratch cards.
What happens to unclaimed lottery money?
As you would hope, the unclaimed lotto ticket money from the National lottery goes into the National Lottery Funded projects. This is inclusive of any interest that is accumulated during the waiting period. Those who are unaware of National Lottery Funded projects can see more details on the National Lottery website. So far over £42 Billion has been raised for over 625,000 community projects in the UK. These projects can be broadly categorised as:
- Charitable expenditure
- Health, Education, and Environment
So what about the other big lotteries of the world? What do they do with the funds they have from unaccounted winnings? We decided to have a look at the two biggest Lottery operators that Onepoundlotto.com deals with.
Powerball (Multi-State Lottery Association). State that, “all money from Powerball grand prizes is returned to all the lotteries (i.e. The 44 states) in proportion to the volume of their sales”. It is then up to the state lotteries to distribute the funds depending on their jurisdictional laws. This can vary considerably between states, however. In New York, the money is required to go back to the players as guaranteed bonus prizes or second chance games. The state of Wisconsin uses their unclaimed lottery prizes to put towards property tax expenses, and in Georgia, they put a proportion to helping gambling addiction
It isn’t clear why it only talks about the grand prizes, and little information is present about what happens to the remaining unaccounted for prize money. We can only assume that it is redistributed to the states also.
MegaMillions (MegaMillions consortium and the Multi-State Lottery Association) follow the same rules as above however it is a bit more detailed to say that they redistribute the unmatched winnings from all tiers.
The biggest unclaimed lottery prizes in the UK and the world.
The largest unclaimed lottery jackpot in the world was right here in Blighty. Hitchen and its surrounding area in Hertfordshire to be precise. The jackpot in question in June 2012 and was worth £63.8 million. The official deadline to come forward and claim this was in December of that year.
Camelot (the lottery operator) made a repeated appeal for the winner to come forward. As you would expect press coverage in the local and national arena was huge. But despite the ticket sales constituency only having 110,00 people, it was to no avail. Ironically the odds of finding Hertfordshire’s largest lottery winner were far lower than them winning in the first place.
The other winning ticket holder in Belgium “made no bones” about claiming their half of the prize.
Whilst the UK holds the crown for the largest ever unclaimed lottery win, it is by no means the country with the largest yearly collective amount of unclaimed lottery wins. That crown (as you would expect) goes to the US. In 2017, just in the Powerball alone the were 167 unclaimed prizes, all over $1 million. It is estimated that lost winnings amount to at least $2 billion a year in the US and have risen to nearly $3 Billion. New York appears to be the worst offending area with nearly $103 million alone in (2015). Maybe New Yorkers are just too busy, to check their tickets!
A table of the top seven largest unclaimed lotto tickets of all time.
|Amount in USD||Location||Draw Date|
|99 million||Hertfordshire, England||3rd June 2012|
|77.1 million||Georgia, USA||29th June 2011|
|68 million||New York, USA||24th December 2002|
|63 million||California, USA||8th August 2015|
|51.7 million||Indiana, USA||14th September 2002|
|46 million||Brooklyn, NY, USA||25th April 2003|
|31 million||Queens, NY, USA||1st August 2006|
Other unclaimed lottery tickets from around the world
- A mystery man or woman in Baden-Württemberg, Germany had two and a half years to come forward and claim an € 11.3 million German 6/49 Lotto jackpot. The deadline expired in April 2021. With no one announcing themselves as the winner despite a nationwide appeal.
- Meanwhile in June 2012, in A Coruña, Spain there was a bizarre case of a winning Primitiva lottery ticket being sold and unclaimed. The winner had clearly not seen the results and went into another shop for another punt. Here they managed to drop the winning ticket. Which was worth € 4.7 million
It was found by the store owner (Manuel Reija), who soon realized its value. He could have just kept quiet and claimed the money. Although Manuel was an extremely honest man. Doing the right thing, he rang the lottery authorities and explained the situation.
17 months went by without anyone being able to prove that the ticket belonged to them. Not through “want of trying” however. With 270 chancers claiming ownership of the ticket. Some even filing lawsuits. CCTV was checked and 11 fingerprints were lifted from the ticket although only six were full fingerprints.
Manuel was due to be given the € 4.7 million windfall by the State Lottery and Betting Society (SELAE). Despite him appearing upset by the official owner of the ticket not being found.
However, Manuel’s elaborate story didn’t quite add up and cracks began to appear. Maybe this honest man is a crook. After a lengthy but inconclusive police investigation and court case. It is now the narrative the Manuel received four tickets to check from a customer. Upon realising he had a winner, he swapped out the ticket for another and concocted the story to make it seem legit. It is also believed the original winner has passed away. The court case continues…
Reasons why you might not claim your mahooooosive Jackpot prize?
You forgot (same as above)
You lost your ticket (still braindead!)
Not aware of the secondary prizes.
You are being held hostage in a gimps subterranean dungeon.
You are stuck in a Thai cave with no phone signal and no hope of Elon Musk coming to rescue you with a sub.
How long are lottery tickets valid for?
How long you have to claim lottery prizes can vary depending on the specific lottery. Please see below a list of time to claim various lottery jackpot prizes:
UK lotteries = 180 days
Irish = 90 days
Mexican Lotteries = 60 days
Oz Lotto = 3 years
Mega Sena = 90 days
German Lotto 6/49
Eurojackpot (varies from country to country).
3 years = Italy and Germany
1 year = the Netherlands, Finland and Iceland, and Denmark.
180 days = Hungary
90 days or three months = Sweden, Norway, Estonia, and Slovenia.
60 days = Poland, Lithuania, and Croatia.
35 days = Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
30 days = Spain and Latvia.
The time to claim on US lotteries varies from state to state. Please see below:
|Days to claim||US States|
|90 days||New Mexico|
|180 days||Arizona, Arkansas, California (non-jackpot), Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington State, Washington D.C., West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.|
|1 year||California (jackpot only), Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.|
Unclaimed EuroMillions Prizes
As mentioned above the UK National lottery provides a list of all unclaimed lottery prizes that are still valid to be claimed. At any one time we look at it, there is a set trend with the Euromillions unclaimed prizes. That is that the vast majority of unclaimed prizes are for the UK millionaire matchmaker. We believe this is because each player is automatically entered into the draw with every ticket purchase. The player may not be familiar with this and it may pass them buy or they may just forget to check it. Presumably, because their main focus is with the main draw and the jackpot prize.
Currently, as we check it, there are 5 outstanding Millionaire Matchmaker prizes, all to the tune of a cool £1 million.
How can I check that my scratch card is a winner online?
There is no official scratch card checker for the National Lottery scratchcards online. The most common problem that people have is that they have a scratch card that has expired. All scratchcards have an expiration date. But this depends on when the manufacturer declares that batch of scratchcards as closed. Then a time period will come into force. For example, the National lottery imposes a 180-day expiry date after the closure of a batch.
Believe it or not, this is the most common problem as players are finding them down the back of the sofa, in their fanny pack (if they are American), or in their lucky undercrackers. There is no collective figure available for unclaimed scratch cards UK.
What scratch card wins most in the UK?
Not surprisingly the £1 scratch cards have better odds than say a £2 or £5 scratch card. But with smaller jackpots. Most £5 cards offer about a 1in 5.4 – 5.8 range of breaking even on, whereas most £2 cards offer about 1 in 4 – 5.
Can I claim after 180 days?
Please see above.