What Happens To Unclaimed National Lottery Prizes?
Every year, millions of euros go unclaimed in Ireland as National Lottery players fail to come forward to pick up their prizes. This can range from small wins to big jackpots and it all adds up, so what happens to the money that is not claimed?
When is a prize classed as unclaimed?
If you win a prize on any Irish National Lottery game, such as Lotto, EuroMillions and Daily Million, you have 90 days from the date of the draw in which to claim your prize.
For tickets bought in stores, you can redeem prizes up to €100 from authorised retailers, while you must go to dedicated An Post offices for awards up to €14,999. Above this amount, you must make your claim in person at the National Lottery headquarters in Abbey Street Lower in Dublin.
The majority of online prizes will be paid to you automatically, either straight into your online account or by cheque, but you must still prove your ID and collect amounts above €10,000 from National Lottery HQ.
Go to the Unclaimed Prizes page to find a list of the major prizes that can still be paid out to winning ticket holders. If nobody comes forward within 90 days, the money is then returned to the National Lottery. If the winner does eventually make contact after this deadline, the ticket will no longer be valid and they will miss out on the money.
What does the National Lottery do with the unclaimed prize money?
The National Lottery uses any unclaimed prize money to promote its own games, which in turn boosts funding for good causes.
This has been a considerable revenue stream for Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI), the operator of the lottery since 2014. The unclaimed prize pot is thought to be worth around €16 million a year, equal to about two percent of annual sales.
By using the money to promote games, PLI can keep ticket sales high. Around €0.30 from every €1 spent on the National Lottery goes towards good causes, working out at about €4.3 million every week. This money helps to support projects in various areas - Arts, Culture and National Heritage; Health and Welfare; Irish Language; Sport; Recreation and Amenities; and Youth.
Dispute over historic unclaimed prizes
When PLI took over the National Lottery from previous licence holder An Post in 2014, there was already €16 million in the unclaimed prizes fund. This money has not been touched and remains the subject of a dispute between PLI and the Department of Public Expenditure.
Under An Post’s tenure, the unclaimed money would have gone straight to the Irish Exchequer to be distributed to good causes. The Department of Public Expenditure believes the disputed €16 million should still be used in this way, and have now contacted Attorney General Seamus Woulfe for his guidance.
Confirming that the disagreement only relates to the historic unclaimed prize pot, a spokeswoman said: “These monies are currently held in the National Lottery fund, which is managed and controlled by the National Lottery regulator. The department remains of the view, based on our expert legal advice, that these historic unclaimed prizes can be transferred by the regulator to the exchequer to be utilised by good causes.”
PLI argues that the current setup provides the best way to maximise returns to good causes. A spokesman said: “Discussions have been ongoing for some time and will continue to do so in an effort to resolve the matter. PLI believes the €16 million in unclaimed prizes should go towards the player prize fund as this is unclaimed prize money that accumulated over 27 years of the National Lottery under the old licence. Adding special prizes will make games more attractive and will increase sales thereby increasing the contribution to good causes.”
How to avoid missing out on prizes?
The best way to ensure that you don’t miss out on a prize is to take part online, just like the recent Irish Lotto player who won €6.1 million. They have yet to make contact with the National Lottery over their prize, but they just need to log on to their account to see they have won and then start the claims process.
When you play online, there is no danger of losing your ticket and your numbers are checked automatically for you. It is also convenient to play at a time that suits you instead of having to visit a retailer, and there is always another big draw round the corner for you to enjoy.
16th April 2019