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Five Fact Friday - Lotteries

Five Fact Friday - Lotteries

Next week marks the 25th anniversary of the first National Lottery draw.  For £1 per ticket, players could guess which six out of 49 balls would be drawn with each ticket having a one-in-14-million chance of being a winner.

To mark the occasion, here are five facts about fortunes won, raffle rules and gambling gains.  Perhaps not surprisingly, there have been dozens of cases following lottery wins.

1. “In it to win it”

All lotteries are illegal unless they fall into one of the categories specifically permitted by, and contained in, the Gambling Act 2005. 

Within the Act, there are eight categories of permitted lottery of which three (small society lotteries, large society lotteries and local authority lotteries) require either a licence from the Gambling Commission or registration with a licensing authority.

According to the Gambling Act 2005, a game is a lottery if it has the following three elements:

  1. payment is required to participate
  2. one or more prizes are awarded; and
  3. those prizes are awarded by chance.

A licence is not needed for incidental lotteries (i.e. those held at an event such as a charity dinner or an exhibition), private society lotteries, work lotteries, residents’ lotteries or customer lotteries.

2. “It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor”

In October 2019, a man named Edward Putman was convicted of fraud after he and a friend, who worked for Camelot, faked a winning ticket in 2009 and used it to claim a £2.5m jackpot. 

The Camelot ‘insider’, Giles Knibbs, killed himself after he and Putman argued about how to divide the money and confessed his crime to friends shortly beforehand.  Despite his fraudulent windfall, Putman, who had previously spent seven years in prison for a rape conviction, also claimed £13,000 in housing and income support and was found guilty of benefit fraud, for which he was sentenced to nine months in prison.

It’s not Putman who was punished for his crime.  The Gambling Commission fined Camelot £3m for a breach of its operating licence.

3. “The more a man has, the more he wants”

A Chinese bank manager was arrested after he stole $6.7m from his bank to buy lottery tickets.  He was found out after winning only $95,000.  Amazingly, he had been convinced that he would make the stolen money back because he had done it before, previously stealing $26,000 to buy lottery tickets and making enough winnings to more than pay that sum back. 

However, it is possible to ‘cheat’ legally.  In 1992, an Australian syndicate of about 2,500 people spent around $5m on buying just about every combination in the Virginia, USA lottery. They won $27m.

4. “Money often costs too much”

Unfortunately, money can’t buy you happiness.  In the 2011 matrimonial case of S V AG, the High Court was asked to decide whether a lottery prize was matrimonial money.

The wife had been playing the National Lottery, apparently without her husband’s knowledge, for a while and used money from her own earned income to buy the tickets, finally striking lucky with a £500,000 win.  The Court decided that this was non-matrimonial money, i.e. that it belonged to the wife only.  However, she used her winnings to buy a new family home at which point, the Court decided, that part of the money became matrimonial property.

Things ended slightly differently for Michigan lottery winner Richard Zelasko though.  He too had been playing the lottery for a number of years and continued to do so after splitting from his wife.  Mary Elizabeth Zelasko had initiated divorce proceedings against her husband and the pair had been living apart for a considerable amount of time when Richard won $38m.  Mary Elizabeth argued that, even though she had initiated divorce proceedings before Richard’s win, she was entitled to half of the money as he would probably have incurred losses whilst playing the lottery during their marriage.  The Court agreed with her.

5. “He who loses money, loses much; He who loses a friend, loses much more…”

It’s not just crooks and married couples that argue over lottery winnings.  In 2015, Fatih Ozcan, a waiter at a Turkish restaurant in York, was awarded half of the £1m that his employer, Hayati Kucukkoylu, had claimed.

This case was unusual in that the purchase of the ticket was prompted by a dream.  Mr Ozcan dreamt that he was holding a large bundle of cash and that Mr Kucukkoylu was stood in front of him.  Because of this dream, he ‘pestered’ his boss for some money to go towards some lottery tickets and the dream came true.  Mr Ozcan bought six tickets at £1.50 each and one of the tickets landed them £1m.  Mr Kucukkoylu claimed that he had paid for the tickets and picked the numbers.  Mr Ozcan said that he had, in fact, paid half the price of the tickets himself and that it was his idea to buy them in the first place.  Mr Ozcan also accused his employed of stealing the ticket from his coat pocket although he later admitted that he had made this up. 

Whether you are a lottery winner filing for divorce, a high-net worth individual looking for advice on how best to protect your money or whether you have any other legal issue, personal or corporate, Dutton Gregory is here to assist and give professional advice.

With five offices across Hampshire and Dorset, we provide legal expertise and dedicated client service. We work closely alongside both individual and corporate clients to achieve successful outcomes.

If you wish to speak to a member of our team, email them today at contact@duttongregory.co.uk or call your nearest office.