Do Lottery Tickets and Scratch Cards Expire?

expiredWhen you buy a lottery ticket you are entering a specific draw, or series of draws, and so you will likely be aware of the time and date to check the tickets.  There are, however lots of reasons why we might not check a ticket immediately and so what happens if you forget about a ticket and only check it months later and it turns out to be a winner?  Do these tickets expire and how long do you have to claim them?

It is often more of an issue with scratch cards, however, because when we buy a card we often have no clue as to how long that card is valid for.  There is often no set end date to a run of scratch cards and the game is often closed when all the top prizes have been won after which there is then a period of time to claim other prizes.  Customers may not be aware of this though and if you leave a winning scratch card sitting around for a year when you get around to claiming it it may no longer be valid.

Let’s say that you buy a lottery ticket for the upcoming draw on Saturday, but you’re going away on a two-month cruise tomorrow. While you’re away on your holiday, the draw takes place, and your ticket is a winning one. Of course, while you’re on the cruise, you may not be able to claim the winnings and so the question is does that lottery ticket expire at any time, resulting in you not being able to claim those funds in the end?

Or perhaps you’ve bought a couple of scratch cards from a local outlet, and you take them home. You forget that you have them, as other things have taken over in your daily life. It is only a year later that you find them stored away in your sock drawer, just waiting to have the foil scratched off of them. If you then proceed with this and find it to be a winning scratch card, can you still claim the money? Or does the scratch card itself have an expiry date that makes the win null and void?

Let’s take a look at whether or not lottery tickets and scratch cards have expiration dates attached to them.

Timeframe For Claiming Scratch Card Wins

collection of scratch cards

We’ll look at scratch cards first of all. Perhaps we’ve all had a dabble or two with these. You buy a scratch card and, as the name of it suggests, you scratch off the silver foil covering the game panel with a coin. The usual way of playing such a game is to match three of the same values on the panel to win that amount. Some scratch cards also have side games involved in them alongside the base game. But let’s say that you do win, does it matter when you scratch the panel off and when you claim any winnings after that time?

Well, as it happens, scratch cards have been in operation since long before The National Lottery came into effect in 1994. They were first played in a meaningful way in the UK back in 1974, but since that time they have grown to become much more popular and have been adapted to suit a much more modern gambling scene. The current water-based coating used on the game panel has been in action since the late 1980s too, although it was patented in 1991.

Camelot introduced scratch cards to the UK using that coating in 1995, and they saw swift popularity with players across the country. In 2001, the Millionaire card was launched too, and this gave people the chance to win £1 million via playing instant win scratch card games. And later on in the same year, Camelot brought the Monopoly scratch card into action, celebrating the 100th variation of a National Lottery card.

The rules on claiming prizes from scratch cards have pretty much remained the same since they were introduced. Camelot, which is the current operator for all National Lottery products (although this is potentially going to change in 2024 with the Gambling Commission backing Allwyn Entertainment for the new licence), can announce a closing date for any of its scratch games whenever it wants. Tickets are still able to be sold for that game up until closing date. Camelot can also suspend or withdraw any of the scratch game at any point. Games are usually closed if all the jackpots have been won and it isn’t worth running them anymore.

A couple of reasons exist as to why scratch cards may expire. The National Lottery categorises them in three ways – Category A cards, Category B cards and Category C cards. The third of these caters to those cards with jackpots of more than £121,000, and these games are closed when all jackpots have been claimed. Turning to those in Category A, these cards tend to have jackpots lower than £121,000, and these won’t be closed once the jackpots have been claimed. This is because there will still be plenty of good prizes to win from them.

Another reason why scratch cards expire is because retailers have sold them all, and once this occurs, there is no reason for them to remain valid. This will see the operator introduce an official expiration date for them. Those dates are never immediate, though. Instead, anyone possessing such a scratch card will be able to claim winnings from such within a specific timeframe.

You’ll need to remember two dates when it comes to an expiring scratch card game – the date of closure and the final date for claiming any winnings. No further cards can be sold beyond the closure, but you can still claim winnings for up to 180 days after that, as stated within the official rules of The National Lottery.

Back in September of 2021, the operator ended the £100,000 a Month for a Year scratch card game. With this being the closure date, anyone possessing a winning card had until February 28 of 2022 to claim their funds.

Do Lottery Tickets Also Expire?

180 days 3d illustrationAre lottery tickets in the same sort of boat as scratch cards? Do they also expire at specific times? Well, most people would really question whether or not someone is sane in the head if they won a huge amount and then waited around to claim it. After all, someone playing the lottery is likely looking to win a big payout, right? It’s quite an unlikely scenario that this would come to light, but believe it or not, it has happened in the past.

Whether or not this is simply due to their personal preference or because they haven’t been around within the country to claim the winnings is a mystery. Is it possible that the winning lottery ticket would expire in these circumstances?

Anyone possessing a standard winning lottery ticket will also usually have 180 days to claim their prize. But it is not uncommon for winnings to go unclaimed as well. In 2009, The Independent reported on £7.2 million in total lottery winnings never being claimed by ticket holders. And this has led to the UK Lotto announcing that no winnings would be awarded to players on day 181. Therefore, with this being an official rule, it could be said that a lottery ticket becomes invalid and expires after that 180-day period once the draw has taken place.

While that may result in an awful situation for the player who misses out on their huge win, the money itself is pumped back into the Good Causes fund. Over the years, this has generated billions of pounds for projects and causes across the United Kingdom.

Of course, it is always ideal for a player to check their ticket on a weekly basis, just so that they know where they stand with it. This way, they don’t risk losing out on any winnings from their ticket(s). Of course, buying tickets online is another option. Through this, notifications will be sent to you when you win in a draw.

The National Lottery also publishes details of large unclaimed prizes on its website, so you can always check there if you think you have an unclaimed ticket. Information there includes the draw date, type of game, the prize won, the location that the winning ticket was purchased and the latest date that the winnings can be claimed.

A Severe Case of Missing Out on a £58 Million Win

It has been noted that several lottery players have missed out on claiming their winnings, but one that sticks out in the minds of many occurred back in 2020. It was reported at this time that a ticket purchased in South Ayrshire was the winner of the March 17 EuroMillions draw. The ticket holder had won a £58 million payout as a result. And while a claim for it was staked in April, Camelot didn’t proceed with paying it out, meaning that it was likely a bogus claim.

The deadline for that win of £57,869,670 came to an end on Sunday 13 September 2020 at 11:59pm, and nobody else came forward to put in a claim for it. Therefore, the funds were redirected to the Good Causes pot. At the time, a spokeswoman for Camelot said that while the claim from April had been investigated, they “don’t comment on the detail of individual claims”. She did go on to state that any claim is put through a rigorous validation process as a way of ensuring that the prize gets to the proper person.

The winning player was never located.

A Lottery Win Lost Overseas

It’s not just the United Kingdom that has its own lottery complete with deadlines. Across the seas in the United States, a Colorado man ended up winning…and then losing out on receiving his $1,500 payout.

Peter Bayley, who played the lottery in the spring of 2020, should have been the recipient of the $1.5K reward when his numbers were chosen in the Colorado state Powerball lottery game. Despite not winning a huge amount, he did have the intention of using the winnings to go travelling with his wife. The lottery office was closed briefly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Bayley said that he did not feel comfortable sending the winning ticket through certified mail. So, he chose to wait until the office re-opened to claim his winnings.

However, without realising it, he missed the deadline for claiming winnings by three days. “I thought the extension of three days would be something they could live with”, Bayley explained afterwards.

Winning tickets in Colorado need to be turned in within six months, and while a 30-day extension period for winning players was brought into effect due to the pandemic’s effects, Bayley still didn’t manage to submit his winning ticket in time. A spokesperson for the lottery stated that strict lottery rules are mandated by Colorado state, and no exception could be made for Bayley.

A Close Call in 2019

A £ 1million jackpot prize was up for grabs in a lottery draw taking place in March of 2019, and it was found that a winning ticket had indeed been purchased for it. Yet nobody had come forward to claim the payout. The player was based in the East Riding area of Yorkshire, and the 180-day claim period came into effect from the draw date, meaning that they had until September 2 of that year to pick up their winnings.

And while it looked like all hope was lost for anybody to come forward and obtain the money, someone did submit their claim just a few hours before that deadline came into effect. Camelot set about verifying and validating their claim for the £1 million prize, and they clearly only just got in there within the timeframe.

Lottery winners have missed out on receiving millions in winnings in the past thanks to the 180-day jackpot deadlines. A huge £125.1 million in prizes went unclaimed in 2018, which included wins from the Lotto, EuroMillions and scratch card games.