2019 will mark the 25th anniversary of the UK National Lottery, the longest running lotto game in the United Kingdom. Ten years on from its 1994 launch, though, the National Lottery became one of the first lottos to become part of the EuroMillions draw. Originally set up alongside Spain and France’s national lotteries, EuroMillions has since become the biggest lottery draw on the continent.
With nine European countries now involved, this has simultaneously increased the amount players could stand to win and the odds of them actually winning it. This is part of the reason that entering a EuroMillions lottery syndicate has become so popular in recent years.
However, EuroMillions isn’t responsible for the largest global jackpot in lottery history. Here, we’ll take a look at the biggest wins in lottery history around the world.
First, though, a note. When those lucky few do claim their winnings, they are given two options: taking their winnings in a lump sum or a regular payment over time. Taking the lump sum may be the most desirable option, receiving a sudden windfall of some hundreds of millions; however, much of this will need to be paid back in taxes, reducing the net amount they will actually receive.
Taking the money in annuity will reduce the tax that a winner will have to spend, and allow them to enjoy more of that overall jackpot. Where possible, we will specify which form of payout these winners received.
The two biggest lottery jackpots in history
The biggest lottery win of all time from a single ticket was claimed by a Massachusetts hospital clerk who, on receiving news of her jackpot, immediately quit her job for good. Mavis Wanczyk, who had been working at the Mercy Medical Centre for over thirty years, won $480 million, having bought five tickets for the August 2017 draw. Opting for a lump sum payout, and after federal and state taxes, she received a not inconsiderable $336 million.
The biggest total prize for any lotto win was a $1.6 billion Powerball draw in January 2016. The prize money was split between three tickets, claimed by winners in California, Tennessee and Florida. All three opted for a lump sum payment of $327.8 million, though the annuity option would have left them more than $200 million better off, before taxes.
The largest EuroMillions jackpots
Thanks to its continental reach, EuroMillions has paid out the same record-breaking jackpot on three separate occasions. A €190 million prize was first won in August 2012 by the Bayfords, a Suffolk-based couple, following fourteen consecutive rollovers over the preceding months. The pair were lavish with their winnings, investing in new homes and vehicles, having taken the jackpot in a lump sum payment.
Two years later, an anonymous winner in Portugal won the same amount following a five-week rollover, but chose to remain anonymous. The other €190 million winner also chose to keep their identity private, having bought their ticket in Gran Canaria for a September 2017 draw. As such, considering the area’s popularity with tourists, it is uncertain whether the winner was a local or a British ex-pat.
The world’s biggest unclaimed lottery win
All global lottery ticket sales registered and traceable to the store from which they were bought, and in the UK, winners are given 180 days to claim their winnings. According to the UK lottery company Camelot, 3% of all of its lottery winnings per year remain unclaimed.
Whilst unclaimed winnings are donated to the National Lottery’s Good Causes fund after the 180 days have passed, the National Lottery does publicise unclaimed tickets in the hope that the lucky winner does come forward.
Yet, even with a more favourable exchange rate, and a wider pool of participants the biggest unclaimed lottery win didn’t actually come from across the pond, but right here in Blighty. In 2012, EuroMillions officials were able to trace an unclaimed winning ticket for a £65 million prize back to a shop in Hertfordshire.
Still, at least the Good Causes fund was happy to take the money for its own charitable enterprise.