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.
Joe and Jess Thwaite, from Gloucester, opted to go public after winning a jackpot of £184 million in May 2022. They admitted it had not been an easy decision, but said they did not want to put pressure on others to keep their secret. They felt it would be impossible to treat anyone to something special, such as a holiday, without telling them their news, and instead wanted to be open with everyone.
Chris and Colin Weir, of Largs in Ayrshire, banked £161.6 million on EuroMillions in July 2011 and bucked the trend by choosing to speak to the media. Chris stated 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.”
Steve and Lenka Thomson of West Sussex went public with their £105 million EuroMillions win in November 2019. Speaking about the reasons they decided to go public, Steve said: "It would be so difficult to live a lie and not tell anyone about the win, especially with the fact we can both stop working and move house."
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 Joe and Jess Thwaite, 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.
Some of the largest jackpots ever to be paid out in the UK have been claimed anonymously. The player who won £170.2 million in October 2019 decided to stay private rather than opt for publicity. Head to the Biggest Winners page for a full list of the biggest Lotto and EuroMillions jackpots awarded in the UK.