National Lottery changes how scratchcard winners claim cash prizes

CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 04: National Lottery scratchcards for sale in a newsagent store on January 4, 2019 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
Lottery scratchcard players have been warned of a major change in how payments are made to winners. (Getty)

Anyone who buys a lottery scratchcard dreams of winning big – but a major change means that if you do get lucky, you'll need to follow a new process to get your hands on your cash.

The alteration in how some prize money is paid comes after Allwyn took over as the operator of the National Lottery from Camelot.

Last month, the new operator revealed that around 900 post offices across the UK will no longer sell draw tickets and scratchcards as part of the new 10-year licence. Now, it has also emerged that scratchcard players who win between £500.01 and £50,000 will no longer be able to get their prize cheques paid at the Post Office.

Instead, they will have to follow a new process. But some winners have reportedly been left waiting up to a month to get their prize money.

A spokesperson for Allwyn said it had put a new claims process in place following the Post Office’s decision to no longer pay National Lottery retail prizes between £500.01 and £50,000, prompting a high volume of players contacting them.

"We’re sorry for any delays and have increased the number of colleagues to assist players with their claims, which is helping them get their prizes more quickly," it said. "We’d like to reassure any affected players that they will receive their prizes and to remind them that prizes of up to £500 can still be paid out in store."

Why has the system changed?

When Allwyn took over the licence from Camelot on 1 February, it meant various changes, including how the Post Office works with the lottery after Post Office Limited decided last year to end its group contract with the National Lottery.

Post Office branch managers were given the choice on an individual basis to sign up to sell the products or not.

Last month, Allwyn said about 900 post offices across the UK – nearly a fifth (19%) of the 4,800-strong network of post offices that previously sold National Lottery products - had not signed up to continue so would no longer sell draw tickets and scratchcards under the new 10-year licence.

Lottery retailers are not able to sell tickets for draws without also selling scratchcards, under the retail agreement with Allwyn.

Post Office Limited used to take a processing fee from each National Lottery transaction, understood to be around 1%. It said its decision to end the central contract was made in response to requests from postmasters, because it allowed them to receive all of the sales commission, in line with other lottery retailers.

Exterior of a sub post office in the village of Hardingstone, Northampton, UK
Post Office Limited ended its central contract with the National Lottery. (Stock image: Getty)

Allwyn said more than 600 postmasters had chosen not to sign up, with reasons cited including religious beliefs or low lottery sales. It claimed that up to 200 subpostmasters were unable to sign up as lottery retailers because of county court judgments, although these could be linked to the owner of the shop or store where the post office is based.

But the National Federation of Sub Postmasters (NFSP) said many post offices had chosen to stop selling lottery products because of the cost of buying scratchcards.

Post Office Limited had previously covered the cost of buying scratchcards for each postmaster, but under individual retailer contracts they must buy the stock themselves. That meant if they did not sell enough scratchcards, they could risk losing thousands of pounds in unsold stock.

NFSP chief executive Calum Greenhow said retailers need to sell around £400 worth of scratchcards a week to make it worth their while. Greenhow, who runs a Post Office in Scotland with his wife, said: "We’d have ended up in a situation where we would’ve lost a significant amount of money. We would still be selling (lottery tickets) if it wasn’t for the scratchcards.”

Allwyn said that 98.5% of its 23,000 independent retailers overall had signed up to sell lottery products under the fourth licence.

It had around 40,000 retail partners in total, with the remainder being the big supermarkets and retail chains, which it said were all signing up.

How do you now claim your scratchcard prize?

Previously if you won on a scratchcard you could claim prize cheques from your local branch of the post office.

But now, if your scratchcard win is between £500.01 and £50,000 you will have to fill an online claim form to start the payout process, including your own details and details of the ticket, as well as images of the scratchcard.

Winners who are not UK residents have to phone Allwyn to arrange a meeting in-person to claim the money, while those who can't use the online form will have to fill in a paper form and post it.

Once winning numbers have been verified, winners need to send the ticket by post for inspection.

How much time do you have to claim your scratchcard prize?

Scratchcard prizes have to be claimed within 180 days from the closure date of the game.

According to the rules on claiming a prize on the National Lottery website, if a prize is not claimed within the 180 days, you'll lose it. It says: "Your entitlement to a Prize will be lost (and the Prize will not be paid) if a Prize is not claimed within the Claim Period."

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