The jackpot was won in the draw on 17th March and it was the first EuroMillions jackpot to be won in the UK in 2020, so it generated a lot of attention. After two weeks without a claimant the National Lottery revealed that the ticket was purchased in South Ayrshire in Scotland and players were encouraged to check their tickets.
Just a few weeks later the National Lottery confirmed that the winner had come forward to claim the prize and speculation then turned to the ticket holder’s identity and whether they would go public with the win.
Since then, however, there has been no more news about the winner and the jackpot is still on the unclaimed prizes list. The last date on which a potential winner can claim the prize is 13th September, meaning that time is running out for whoever holds the lucky ticket. So why hasn’t the prize been paid out?
The claimant didn’t have the winning ticket
It could simply be that the person who came forward to claim the prize just didn’t have a jackpot-winning ticket. The first thing that winners are encouraged to do when claiming a prize is call the National Lottery’s customer support team, who take some information about the ticket in order to confirm whether it is a winner.
After that the ticket is verified in person by one of the National Lottery’s winners’ advisors, either at the claimant’s home or at one of the regional claim centres. Ticket details, such as the serial number, are checked against the National Lottery’s records to ensure it is genuine and that it’s not a forged or cancelled ticket.
If the ticket doesn’t pass this test for whatever reason, the prize won’t be paid out. If the ticket is damaged to the point where it can’t be verified there and then, extra steps need to be taken.
The ticket has been lost or damaged
All National Lottery prizes must be claimed within 180 days of the winning draw, but there is another shorter deadline within that time frame. If anyone believes they bought the winning ticket but it has been lost or stolen, they must contact the National Lottery within 30 days of the winning draw to claim.
Without a ticket to verify, the National Lottery must conduct very detailed security checks to try and ascertain whether the claim is valid. The winner needs to provide as many details as possible about where and when the ticket was purchased, and how it came to be lost or damaged. The National Lottery’s security team may visit the winner to get this information and they may also visit the retailer that sold the winning ticket to further verify the claim.
If after all these checks it can be confirmed that the claimant did have a winning ticket, the prize may be paid out. Even then, it may not be paid until the 180-day claim period is up, just in case anyone else comes forward to claim in that time.
This would fit with the timeline of this mystery winner, as it was confirmed in mid-April - within the 30-day period for reporting a lost or damaged ticket - that the claim had been lodged. As it has been all quiet since then, it may be that the National Lottery is waiting until the end of the 180-day claim period to pay out.
The coronavirus lockdown caused delays
The £57 million jackpot was won the day after a potential UK lockdown was raised in the House of Commons and six days before the Prime Minister announced that people must stay at home. In other words, it came at the worst possible time, as coronavirus caused the country to grind to a halt and diverted attention to the enormity of the challenges ahead.
Prize claims did not cease entirely at that time, as the National Lottery updated the process for claiming jackpots to take into account the new restrictions. There was disruption, though. The National Lottery’s regional office in Watford was forced to close temporarily after some staff members tested positive for Covid-19. This is one of the locations that processes postal claims and verifies jackpot-winning tickets, so its closure could have had a knock-on effect to the payout of the £57 million jackpot.
The office reopened a short time later and as lockdown restrictions have eased across the UK, any disruption caused by coronavirus should be less of a factor. If the winner is still shielding, however, or they have not been confident that they can get their ticket validated in person safely, any delays in paying the prize out could have been exacerbated.
What happens if the jackpot does not get claimed?
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for EuroMillions prizes to go unclaimed. UK players miss out on millions of pounds of prize money in this way every year. Any prize money that does not get claimed within the 180-day claim period is allocated to the National Lottery’s Good Causes fund.
Many winners simply forget to check their tickets, especially when it comes to the UK Millionaire Maker raffle, which some players just aren't aware of. The £1 million prizes that the raffle offers commonly appear on the unclaimed prizes list.
There’s more to this story, though, as the National Lottery did announce that someone had come forward to claim, and that wouldn’t happen unless there was some indication that the claimant held a winning ticket.
Incredibly, even if it does happen that the winner just hasn’t come forward and the £57 million prize goes unclaimed, it wouldn’t top the list of the biggest ever unclaimed prizes. That dubious honour belongs to the £63.8 million jackpot that went unclaimed in 2012. It was the fifth-biggest lottery jackpot ever won in the UK at the time.
The National Lottery revealed that the ticket had been purchased in the Stevenage and Hitchen area but despite a campaign to find the winner - including giant billboards that asked ‘Are you the lucky £63.8 million winner?’ - the ticket holder was not found.
A lot has happened since the £57 million jackpot was won in March, but attention is sure to turn once more to this enormous unclaimed prize as the deadline approaches. In the meantime three more EuroMillions jackpots have been won in the UK since March and the top prize is already back up to £58 million.
The draw on Friday 7th August will also see 10 prizes worth £1 million handed out to UK players in a special edition of the Millionaire Maker raffle, so come the weekend there will be many more prizes to be claimed. Remember to check your tickets - including your Millionaire Maker code - and don’t be one of those who lets a big win slip between their fingers.