Can Lottery Winners Remain Anonymous?
When you win a National Lottery prize in the UK, you are able to decide whether to go public or stay anonymous. It is one of the first big choices you have to make and it is entirely up to you which option you take. Learn more about what happens if you decide to keep your win private or opt for publicity.
The biggest prize to ever be claimed anonymously in the UK
The biggest jackpot to be claimed publicly – by Colin and Christine Weir
The percentage of big winners that choose to remain anonymous
Do you have to go public when you win the lottery?
If you win a prize of less than £50,000 you don’t have to claim your prize in person from the National Lottery so you don’t need to decide whether to go public or not. If you win more than that, it will be one of the first decisions you need to make after you claim.
Here are the steps leading up to when you have to make that decision.
- You must first contact the National Lottery to validate your claim (within 180 days of the draw).
- Lottery officials will make arrangements for the claim to be processed in person.
- A meeting will then take place. As well as ticket and ID checks, you will be able to speak to a winner’s advisor and the issue of publicity will be discussed.
Many winners want to know if you do have to go public if you win the lottery, but if you are in this position you will be reassured that this is not the case. In some U.S. states, lotteries are compelled to disclose winner information because of ‘Right To Know’ laws, but in the UK there is no such law and it is completely your decision.
National Lottery advisors will give you as much advice as you want, but will leave the final decision up to you. They will remain on hand to provide support for as long as you wish, whether you stay anonymous or go public.
If you choose to stay anonymous, the National Lottery will not release any details regarding your identity, where you bought your ticket or whether you played individually or as part of a syndicate. There may just be a statement confirming the prize has been claimed.
The only time any kind of information will be released is if you take longer than two weeks to claim. In those instances the National Lottery may release the approximate location – such as the county – in which the winning ticket was purchased, but that’s all. No precise information will be disclosed.
The winner of the biggest ever lottery jackpot in the UK – a prize worth £170 million – chose to remain anonymous rather than open up their personal life to the public.
If you stay private, you avoid the scrutiny caused by going public with a big win. Interest in many winners does sometimes die down in the media after a while, but some are still the subject of news stories many years after their win. This can be intrusive and is something that many winners prefer to shun.
You also avoid getting requests for handouts if nobody knows you are a winner. These can come from strangers or even people you know. Some winners might be concerned about their windfall causing family rifts, worrying that relatives and friends might expect a certain slice of the prize.
If you are happy for news of your win to be shared with the world, events will be arranged to publicise that you are the lucky ticket holder. These can include photoshoots of you with a giant cheque and bottle of champagne, as well as press conferences. You will be asked about your backstory, how you found out you had won and what you plan to do with the money.
While many winners fear that going public could have a bigger impact on their lives or compromise their safety, others would prefer to embrace fame or simply believe that they wouldn’t be able to hide a big win. On picking up his cheque for a £107 million EuroMillions win in March 2014, Neil Trotter of Coulsdon, Surrey, commented: "I didn't want to disappear and hide, I didn't think that would be possible. I didn't want to be deceitful to all my friends."
Colin and Christine Weir of Largs, Ayrshire were the winners of one of the UK's biggest ever lottery prizes and they opted to speak to the press too. On the decision to reveal their identities after their £161.6 million EuroMillions win in July 2011, Christine commented that "we would have had to have constructed lies for our nearest and dearest. We don’t want to live like that."
The Weirs admitted they had received numerous begging letters once their faces had been plastered across newspapers, television shows and websites, but going public also allowed them to launch the Weir Charitable Trust, which helps provides grants to small charities across Scotland.
If you win a major prize online, you also have a third option. You can choose partial publicity, where your name and identity are kept secret and only a few details about your story are disclosed. For example, a player who won £3.5 million on EuroMillions in October 2019 was known only as Mr V from Surrey. It was also revealed that he planned to buy a new home with his winnings.
Do Big Winners Go Public?
It is estimated that around 85 percent of National Lottery winners in the UK decide to stay anonymous. Three out of five of the biggest EuroMillions winners have remained anonymous, and the same goes for the biggest Lotto winners.
Here are the top five UK EuroMillions winners and information on whether they took the publicity option or remained private:
|8th October 2019||£170.2 million||Anonymous|
|12th July 2011||£161.6 million||Chris and Colin Weir of Largs, Ayrshire|
|10th August 2012||£148.6 million||Adrian and Gillian Bayford of Haverhill, Suffolk|
|11th June 2019||£123.4 million||Anonymous|
|24th April 2018||£121.2 million||Anonymous|
Here are the top five Lotto jackpot wins of all time and details of whether the winners went public or stayed anonymous:
|6th April 2016||£35.1 million||Anonymous|
|9th January 2016||£33 million||David and Carol Martin of Hawick, Scottish Borders|
|9th January 2016||£33 million||Anonymous|
|13th February 2016||£32.5 million||Gerry and Lisa Cannings of Deeping St James, Lincolnshire|
|31st December 2016||£26.4 million||Anonymous|