What happens to an unclaimed lottery prize?

We all like to imagine what extravagant things we would do if we won the lottery. A new house, a fancy car, an extravagant holiday – the list is endless. Sadly, this dream isn’t always a reality – even for lottery winners! In some instances, the owner of the winning ticket will never come forward. When there is a winning lottery ticket but no one claims the prize, where does the unclaimed lottery prize money actually go? 

How long do I have to claim a lottery prize? 

In the United Kingdom, players have to claim their prize within 180 days. Meanwhile, Ireland has just half the time to claim, at 90 days. Once the claim period is over, the ticket will expire and the owner of the lottery ticket will not be able to claim any winnings.

What happens to unclaimed lottery winnings? 

After the claim period has expired, any unclaimed lottery prizes, and any interest prizes have accumulated, are allocated to the National Lottery’s Good Causes fund. Ultimately, this fund benefits thousands of charities, trusts and associations throughout the UK. 

How often do lottery winnings go unclaimed? 

Fortunately, winners often realise their win in time. In most cases, an increase in publicity about how much money is still to be claimed, lottery winners will eventually come forward. For example, in July 2019, a player in Manchester claimed their £1 million prize just hours before the deadline.

However, this is not always the case. In 2012, a £68 million EuroMillions winning ticket was sold in Hertfordshire.  Sadly, the owner missed the 180 day cut off. Imagine missing out on £68 million from missing the claim period!

In the year ending 31 March 2020, the National Lottery saw ticket sales of £7,905.1 million. Consequently, £4.5 billion was paid to players in prizes! To give context to how often lottery winnings go unclaimed, over the 2018/19 financial year, £125.1 million of funds raised as the result of lottery prizes that were never claimed.

Players can check the National Lotteries unclaimed prizes page to a see a list of the major unclaimed lottery prizes.

Finally, to make sure you aren’t missing out on winnings, visit Lottery Results UK. Check the draw numbers against the numbers on your tickets to ensure you don’t miss out on taking home the jackpot prize!