What Happens If You Don’t Claim a Bet?

Red Unclaimed LabelYou may well have seen stories in the news before about huge lottery wins going unclaimed. It is a surprisingly common occurrence with many people unaware that their ticket is a winning one. Failure to collect a prize that is owed is not just limited to lotteries though as it happens fairly often with winning bets too.

What happens if you are one of the punters with an unclaimed winning (or voided) bet though? Well, the answer depends on a few factors as we will now explore. There have been stories of customers claiming money for bets placed decades earlier but not all customers will be so lucky.

When looking into unclaimed bets, it is helpful to consider bets placed online separately to those placed in a betting shop or at a racecourse. This is because online bets do not require ‘claiming’ in the same way. Although your online account will also be credited with a winning or void selection, this is not the same as actually being paid for it.

Unclaimed Online Bets

Green My Account Keyboard Button

Any winning bet placed online will be credited automatically with no action required on your part. Usually, this happens just a few minutes after the event you bet on concludes (or the final event, in the case of an accumulator bet). This only means however that the winning funds will appear in your online wallet at the bookmaker though, not within your bank account. Most of the time, players would remember to withdraw their winnings but this does not always happen, especially if you have placed a long-term bet which will not be settled for several months or even years.

There is a wide range of reasons other a successful bet might sit there completely untouched in a betting account though. It could be, for instance, that you accidentally bet on team X rather than team Y so you were unaware you fortuitously selected a winner. Alternatively, you may have misread the scoreline or misunderstood the market you had bet on. Most commonly though, it is punters not claiming their stake back from a void selection (in the case of a bet being voided, the stake is refunded). Whatever the reason though, the question remains, what happens to this money left in your account?

If after 12 months you have not accessed your account, your account can be considered ‘dormant’ by the bookmaker. They can then impose a small monthly fee for maintaining your dormant account, something that will gradually whittle away at your balance. Before this happens though, a bookmaker must make an effort to give the winnings to you. They will usually do this by sending a payment to the account from which the initial deposit was made. So, if this payment method is still active and accessible, you should receive your funds a little under a year later.

Unclaimed In-Store & On Course Bets

Cashier Using EPOS System

As there is no automatic settling of in-person wagers, there is a larger scope for them to go unclaimed. At an online bookmaker, if you selected the wrong option on the betting slip and it ended up winning, you would see the funds in your account, providing you logged on afterwards. For a paper bet slip though, you would physically need to check it again before you chuck it in the bin.

Not realising you have a winner is just one potential problem though. It could be that you knowingly have a winning bet but your favoured bookie has closed the local branch and there are no others nearby. Similarly, the local branch might still be there but you can no longer make the journey due to broken transport or a personal injury.

In such cases, there is no need to panic because there are measures in place to ensure you get the money you are owed. Here we will look at some common reasons why a bet would go unclaimed, and what the solution is.

Binned Betting Slips

Waste Paper Basket Tipped OverWhether lost or intentionally binned, it is not too difficult for a small piece of paper to go missing. Unfortunately, trying to retrieve a betting slip once it has disappeared is rarely an easy task, especially at a racecourse because the place is full of hundreds if not thousands of them. A lost betting slip does not necessarily mean you cannot collect your winning though.

If after placing a bet at a racecourse, you subsequently lose the slip from a winning (or voided) bet, you must bring it to the attention of the betting ring manager on the day. If it is not raised on the day, then the possibility of claiming your money will disappear. For bets placed at a high-street bookmaker, they will usually be able to sort you out if you go to the branch and explain the situation and fill out a form. This is because all bets taken will be recorded on their system so if you can prove you placed it, then the bet should be honoured. This is not an absolute guarantee though.

Closed Branch

Closed Shop with Shutters DownIf your local branch closes and you really have no viable means of getting to the next closest (or perhaps they have all closed), then you can simply be paid out online. The bookmaker themselves will indicate what information they need but they will typically ask for various pieces of information from the slip, an image of it (either a scan or a good digital photo from a phone or camera), and your details. You do not necessarily need an online account with the bookmaker, although it can make the process a little easier if you do.

After sending this information off via email, the bookmaker can then sort out how you would like to be paid. It is not a particularly speedy process but it does allow punters to claim their cash.

Missed The Cut-Off Point?

Deadline on Clock FaceNow, it could be that you wake up in the middle of the night and think to yourself, hang on, my bet six months ago was actually a winner. Whatever the reason, it is perfectly possible that you realise you have won, or stumble across a winning bet, months or even years after placing the wager. The important question therefore is, can bookies simply refuse to pay out if it has been too long?

The Administration of Gambling on Tracks state that unclaimed tickets are valid for one month as standard. Beyond this, a racecourse bookie is not obligated to pay out although they likely will do providing the ticket is in good condition and there are no peculiar circumstances. This guidance covers bets placed at a racetrack but not those placed with your high-street bookmaker.

With bricks and mortar bookies, their policy can vary significantly and usually it is not something they tend to publicise. There was a fairly recent case of a man, Bob Holmes, who claimed a winning bet on the 1974 Grand National after digging through some of his late father-in-law’s paperwork. In this instance, William Hill honoured the £1 stake placed at 11/1 odds and paid out, including an adjustment for inflation. On top of this, they gave Holmes a £130 free bet to spend on the upcoming National and gave a matching donation to charity.

It would be wrong to think this is common practice, however. William Hill saw the opportunity for some good publicity for very little cost here but not all cases will be so quite newsworthy. When betting slips are so old, especially if they have suffered wear and tear, it can be difficult to verify their legitimacy which is the main stumbling block. After all, it is reasonable to think a bookmaker would remove details of bets that are several years old as there is no benefit of keeping hold of them.

Generally, you should be fine for several months after the event on which you have bet has finished, but after many months or even years later, there is a growing chance you will have missed the deadline. What happens to all these unclaimed funds is an interesting question, and one that formed part of a government report in 2010.

What Happens To Unclaimed Bets?

Man in Suit Stacking Coins

In short, the bookies keep the cash from unclaimed bets that either won or were voided. When you have money with an online bookmaker, those funds are effectively theirs, kept in their bank account. Should you never withdraw it, you have effectively just made a donation to them. The bookie may choose to charge a dormant account fee that will lower the balance but this is just them paying money to themselves.

For physical betting slips, the situation is very similar. If you place a winning £10 bet at 5/1 and never claim it, the bookie should be down £50 but instead they will end up £10 in profit, so a £60 swing. This amount will simply go towards their normal profits as there is really little else they can do with the money. The proposals outlined in the 2010 government report suggested if bookies refused to keep track of all unclaimed winnings, then legislation should be brought in requiring them to give away 75% of funds they gain from such unclaimed winnings.

Although donating unclaimed winnings to charity had been suggested previously in 2004, any legally required giveaway has not yet come into force. Although we may see such a policy as likely to arrive in the future, as things stand the bookies benefit from unclaimed bets which can add up to millions of pounds per year.

Given how much money punters are simply giving away year on year, our advice is to always double-check your betting slips and all your online betting accounts!