Before lottery winners can start to think about how to spend their winnings, they need to make the decision over whether to go public or stay anonymous.
In the UK, all winners have the right to anonymity, regardless of how much they win. The National Lottery winners' advisor Andy Carter told The Telegraph in 2014 that just 15% of lottery winners decide on full publicity with a press conference and photoshoot. Whichever route you take there will be pros and cons.
Chris and Colin Weir, of Largs in Ayrshire, are among the biggest UK lottery winners after banking £161.6 million on EuroMillions in July 2011. They bucked the trend and chose to speak to the media, with Chris stating that, had they tried to conceal the gigantic win, they “would have had to have constructed lies for our nearest and dearest. We don’t want to live like that.”
Julie Jeffrey of Hertfordshire claimed a lottery prize of £1 million in 2002 and went public because she knew it would be a very difficult secret to keep. “There is nowhere to hide,” she told Yahoo! News in 2011, “even if you only tell one person, things spread. Before you know it everybody knows.”
The worry and paranoia that come with concealing information of that type are behind a lot of winners’ decisions to accept their 15 minutes of fame and hope that the interest in them dies down so they can go about enjoying their newfound wealth. Whenever a big lottery win is claimed by someone anonymous, it is common to see newspapers put out an appeal for information on their identity. By going public, winners starve the press of the mystery and intrigue and do not have to worry about being outed by friends or acquaintances.
A key factor in lottery winners preferring to stay anonymous has to be the fear of being bombarded with requests for money. Those who claim large prizes are reported to receive numerous requests for handouts from members of the public, some with genuine heart-wrenching stories, some less than legitimate.
There is also the concern that, if you have your news splashed across the papers, friends, neighbours or family members could feel entitled to a share and be offended if they don’t receive one or if the amount they are given is not as much as they had expected.
Big Anonymous Lottery Prizes
Around half of all the ten biggest lottery winners in the UK, including Chris and Colin Weir, chose to go public with their win, which tells a different story to the 15% of big winners that do so. That's because the bigger the win, the more likely it is that the winners go public, as the pressure to keep such a secret increases. Awards of £50,000 or £100,000 might be easy to explain away or hide, but an eight or nine-figure sum and the mansions, fast cars and tropical holidays that come with it will certainly raise eyebrows. Head to the Biggest Winners page for a full list of the biggest Lotto and EuroMillions jackpots awarded in the UK.