If you were to win the lottery tomorrow, would you really wait around to collect the prize money? This, of course, is unlikely, but there have been documented cases of winners delaying their winnings’ collection, whether this is for personal preference or simply because they have been out of the country.
So with these circumstances in mind, it’s worthwhile asking, when do lottery tickets expire? You may be surprised to hear that lottery tickets do in fact come with an expiry date, but the maximum waiting period depends on the type of jackpot you've won.
Standard lottery ticket holders have a total of 180 days to collect their winnings. UK Lotto is very strict on this – in fact, in 2008 a huge prize of £397,462 went unclaimed.
UK Lotto issued a statement to warn players that on day 181, no winnings would be awarded. So what happens to the money that's unclaimed?
As UK Lotto puts in, when a winner does not claim, the real winner is the general public. Any unclaimed funds are immediately re-invested into the Good Causes charity, which has raised more than £22 billion for civic regeneration.
Good Causes, which also claims 28p from every £1 spent on lottery tickets, funds grants across the UK for health, education, environment, charity, heritage, sports and the arts.
With contributions from EuroMillions, Lotto, Hotpicks, Thunderball, scratchcards and instant games, Good Causes makes up to £30 million each week, totalling more than £37 billion since 1994.
It is always advisable to check your ticket on a weekly basis to make sure you don’t miss out. However, if this is a problem, there is always the option of buying Lotto tickets online, which automatically notify you if you win.
You can find out if you have an unclaimed ticket on the main Lotto website. Under the unclaimed Lottery prizes section, details are clearly laid out including the draw date, type of game, prize tier, prize value, location purchased, winning results and the latest date to claim.
It’s better to be safe than sorry, however – remember, if you’ve bought a ticket for this week’s jackpot, be sure to check it in the next six months!
Katie Thompson is an NCTJ-trained journalist and freelance online gaming writer. She enjoys researching the iGaming industry and writing comprehensive guides on the history of gambling, beating the dealer and even how to get bingo dauber stains out of your favourite shirt.
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