National Lottery (United Kingdom)

National Lottery (United Kingdom)
The National Lottery
Region United Kingdom and Isle of Man
Launched 1994
Operator Camelot Group
Regulated By National Lottery Commission
Highest Jackpot £161,653,000
Odds of winning 13,983,815 to 1 (Lotto), 8,060,598 to 1 (Thunderball), 1 in 116,531,800 (Euromillions)
Number of Games 6
Shown on BBC One
state-franchised national lottery in the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man.

It is operated by Camelot Group, to whom the licence was granted in 1994, 2001 and again in 2007. The lottery is regulated by the National Lottery Commission, and was established by the then prime minister John Major in 1994.[1]

All prizes are paid as a lump sum and are tax-free. Of every pound (£) spent on National Lottery games, 50 pence (p) goes to the prize fund, 28p to 'good causes' as set out by Parliament (though some of this is considered by some to be a stealth tax[2] levied to support the Big Lottery Fund, a fund constituted to support public spending[3]), 12p to the UK Government as duty and 5p to retailers as commission, while Camelot receives 4.5p to cover operating costs and 0.5p profit.[4] The National Lottery returns a higher percentage of revenue back to society than any other Lottery.[5] Players must be at least 16 years of age to participate in the lottery, either in the drawn lottery games or by purchase of lottery scratch cards. To date, National Lottery games have created over 2,700 UK millionaires.



A statute of 1698 provided that in England lotteries were by default illegal unless specifically authorised by statute. An 1934 Act legalised small lotteries, which was further liberalised in 1956 and 1976. There could be no big national lottery until the Government established one, however.

The UK's state-franchised lottery was set up under government licence by the government of John Major in 1993, unlike most state lotteries which are operated by the state The National Lottery is privately operated on a state franchised basis in which the Camelot Group was awarded on May 25, 1994.[6]

The first draw took place on November 19, 1994 with a special hour long show presented by Noel Edmonds and the first numbers drawn were 3 5 14 22 30 44 and the bonus was 10 and seven jackpot winners shared a prize of £5,874,778.[7]

Tickets became available on the Isle of Man on December 2, 1999 at the request of Tynwald.

The National Lottery undertook a major rebranding programme in 2002 designed to combat falling sales. This resulted in the main game being renamed Lotto and the National Lottery Extra being renamed Lotto Extra. However, the games as a collective are still known as The National Lottery. It is one of the most popular forms of gambling in the United Kingdom.

In November 2009 Camelot replaced its older Lotto draw machines. The new machines are named Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot and Merlin, reusing names that were used in older machines. At the same time, new machines for the Thunderball game were introduced. The new Lotto machines are the Magnum II model, manufactured by SmartPlay International Inc., and the new Thunderball machines are the SmartPlay Halogen II model.[8][9]


  • Players must be 16 years or older
  • Retailer rules [10] do not exclude foreign players, so players physically buying a ticket at a UK lottery retailer can be of any nationality
  • Online purchase of tickets from — is limited to players who have a UK bank account (for debit card or direct debit purposes), a UK or Isle of Man residential address and are physically present in the UK or Isle of Man when making the ticket purchase.
  • The ticket purchaser for a syndicate, typically the manager of said syndicate, must follow the same eligibility rules that apply to non-syndicate individual players. Note that the remaining members of the syndicate can be of any nationality, but must also be aged 16 or over
  • Lottery tickets are not transferable, so commercial syndicates (i.e. where extra charges are levied over and above the total face value of the tickets purchased) are not permitted


Two lottery ticket stands in a supermarket

Several games operate under the National Lottery brand:

Current games


Six numbers are drawn from a set of individually numbered balls with numbers in the range 1–49, as well as a further bonus ball. Balls, once drawn are not returned to the draw machine. Players choose 6 numbers themselves, or can play a 'Lucky Dip', where 6 numbers are picked automatically at the time of purchase. Prizes are awarded to players who match at least three of the six drawn numbers with increasing prize value for matching more of the drawn numbers. In addition to the six drawn numbers, an additional number is drawn as the Bonus Ball. The Bonus Ball only applies to players who have matched 5 of the 6 main numbers. Anyone matching all six drawn numbers wins a share of the jackpot; the chance of doing so is 1 in 13,983,816. For players matching at least four of the drawn balls the prize value is dependent on the total number of players also matching the same number of balls in that the prize fund is divided equally between all players matching that number of drawn numbers. In the event that no player matches all six of the drawn numbers the jackpot is accumulated into the next Lotto draw, called a Rollover. Until February 2011 this accumulation was limited to three consecutive draws. Rollover draws are a common occurrence, happening once every few draws, although a "treble rollover" is much less common, having happened only 9 times. A new rule, introduced on 10 February 2011, now allows rollovers to accumulate to four consecutive draws, which means that quadruple rollover jackpots may occur in future. The lower the level of ticket sales, the greater the probability of a rollover.

The entry fee to the Lotto draw is £1 per board.

The draw is conducted on Wednesdays and Saturdays, unless Christmas Day falls on one of those days, in which case it is made on Christmas Eve. Saturday draws started on 19 November 1994, under the name 'National Lottery'. The first Wednesday draw was on 5 February 1997. All draws are shown live on BBC One in the UK, with the Saturday draw often shown as a live segment in a range of different pre-recorded Lottery branded gameshows throughout the year.

Lotto is by far the most popular draw with around 31 million tickets sold every Saturday[11] and 18 million sold for the Wednesday draw.[12]

Division of remaining funds after payout of 3-ball winners
Matching numbers Prize Odds of winning
3 numbers £10 per winner 55.656 to 1
4 numbers 22% of remaining fund 1,031.4 to 1
5 numbers 10% of remaining fund 55,490 to 1
5 numbers and bonus ball 16% of remaining fund 2,330,635 to 1
6 numbers 52% of remaining fund 13,983,815 to 1
The overall odds of winning any prize is 52.655 to 1.

The Lotto prize fund is 45 percent of draw sales in a normal week. However, the long-term average percentage is almost exactly 46 percent due to an occasional Super Draw paid for from a Super Draw reserve fund, set aside each draw. The three-ball prize winners are calculated first, these receive £10 each; the remaining prize fund is then divided as shown in the table below and split equally with the number of winners for each selection:

Lotto Hotpicks

Lotto Hotpicks odds and payouts
Match Prize Odds of winning
1 number £5 1 in 9
2 numbers £40 1 in 79
3 numbers £450 1 in 922
4 numbers £7,000 1 in 14,126
5 numbers £130,000 1 in 317,814

Lotto Hotpicks uses the main Lotto draw for its numbers but is a different game. The player chooses both the numbers and the number of draw balls they want to try to match (up to a maximum of five balls). However, if the player does not match all the numbers chosen, they are not a winner. The National Lottery describes Hotpicks as "five games in one", because the player has a choice of five ways of playing the game, each offering different odds and payouts.

The entry fee to the Lotto Hotpicks draw is £1 per board.


The Thunderball draw requires players to pick five main numbers from 1 to 39 and one 'Thunderball' number from 1 to 14 for an entry fee of £1 per board. Prizes may be won by matching the main numbers, with matches of the Thunderball number winning higher prizes. The top prize of the game, now £500,000, is won by matching all five main numbers as well as the Thunderball. There is also a new £3 prize for matching the Thunderball alone. Draws now take place on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and are televised live on BBC One.

The first Thunderball draw was held on 12 June 1999 and the draw was originally only held on Saturdays. The rules of Thunderball changed substantially on 9 May 2010. Before this date, Thunderball matches were drawn from numbers 1 to 34; there was no prize for matching the Thunderball number alone, and the top prize (for matching 5 main numbers and the Thunderball) was half the current jackpot at £250,000. After this date, the Friday draw was introduced in addition to the Wednesday and Saturday draws. Following the change of rules, while the chance of winning anything on Thunderball has more than doubled, the chance of winning the top prizes has more than halved.

The odds and payouts are as follows:

Old (1999–2010) New (after May 2010)
Match Prize Odds of winning Prize Odds of winning
Thunderball only - - £3 1 in 14
1 + Thunderball £5 1 in 33 £5 1 in 35
2 + Thunderball £10 1 in 107 £10 1 in 135
3 numbers £10 1 in 74 £10 1 in 111
3 + Thunderball £20 1 in 960 £20 1 in 1,437
4 numbers £100 1 in 2,067 £100 1 in 3,647
4 + Thunderball £250 1 in 26,866 £250 1 in 47,415
5 numbers £5,000 1 in 299,661 £5,000 1 in 620,046
5 + Thunderball £250,000 1 in 3,895,584 £500,000 1 in 8,060,598

Lotto Plus 5

Lotto Plus 5
Matching Numbers Prize Odds of winning
3 numbers £2.50 56.65592 to 1
4 numbers £25 1,032.397 to 1
5 numbers £250 55,491.33 to 1
5 numbers and bonus ball £25,000 2,330,636 to 1
6 numbers £250,000 13,983,815 to 1
The overall odds of winning any prize is 52.65514 to 1 per draw.
The overall odds of winning any prize is 10.13855 to 1 per Plus 5 draw week.

Lotto Plus 5 is a new game[13] aimed to plug the gaps between the Wednesday and Saturday Lotto draws, meaning it takes place on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. Players can enter by paying an extra £1 when buying their Lotto ticket, which enters the same ticket numbers into five separate draws. Each draw offers fixed prizes for matching 3, 4, 5 and 6 numbers, with the jackpot being worth £250,000. It has been estimated that the game produces an extra 500,000 Lotto winners every week.


On Saturday 7 February 2004 the lottery organisation Camelot launched a pan-European lottery: EuroMillions. The first draw took place on Friday 13 February 2004 in Paris. The UK, France and Spain were involved initially. Lotteries from Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Switzerland joined the draw on 8 October 2004. The draws are currently made in Paris and shown recorded in the UK on BBC One, approximately 3 hours after the draw has taken place. The entry fee to the EuroMillions draw is £2.00 per board. The odds of winning the Jackpot is 1 in 116,531,800.

Scratchcards and Instant Wins

As well as tickets for the Draw Games, the National Lottery also sells scratchcards.

These are small pieces of card where an area has been covered by a thin layer of opaque (and usually designed according to the particular card) latex that can be scratched off. Under this area are concealed the items/pictures that must be found in order to win. Scratchcards can be purchased in most newsagents and supermarkets.

The generic scratchcard requires the player to match three of the same prize amounts. If this is accomplished, they win that amount; the highest possible currently being £100,000. Other scratchcards involve matching symbols, pictures or words.

Initially, all scratchcards were sold for £1. Over the years, scratchcards that cost £2, £3 or £5 have also become available. More expensive scratchcards are larger and offer more games with higher-value prizes. Some scratchcards even have jackpots other than one-off payments, such as a yearly sum or a car.

Instant Win games are online games where the player can win prizes instantly. Some Instant Win games are similar in format to scratchcards, with others involving more interactive play such as dice-rolling or matching special symbols. It is made clear that the Instant Win games are solely based on luck and that no skill or judgement is involved in winning.

Discontinued games

Lotto Extra

Lotto Extra odds and payouts
Match Prize Odds of winning
6 numbers Jackpot 1 in 13,983,815
The maximum jackpot was £50m

Lotto Extra was introduced on 13 November 2000 and was originally called The National Lottery Extra but renamed Lotto Extra in 2002. It was an add on from the main draw where a player could select "lotto Extra same numbers" or a lucky dip. Players would pick six numbers from 49 and there were no lower tier prizes so a perfect match was required. The last draw was on 8 July 2006 and it was replaced by Dream Number.

Dream Number

Dream Number
Match Prize Odds of winning
1st number only £2 1 in 11.2
1st 2 numbers £10 1 in 111.2
1st 3 numbers £100 1 in 1,111.2
1st 4 numbers £500 1 in 11,112
1st 5 numbers £5,000 1 in 111,112
1st 6 numbers £50,000 1 in 1,111,112
all 7 numbers £500,000 1 in 10,000,000
The overall odds of winning any prize were 1 in 10.
Source: National Lottery Players Guide

Dream Number was launched on 15 July 2006. It involved a random seven digit number generated for entry into the main draw. It was played independently of Lotto, or if played with Lotto one Dream Number was generated per ticket, not per Lotto entry. The cost of entry was £1. A dream number was printed on every Lotto ticket bought, whether the player had chosen to enter it into the draw or not. Unlike other Lotto games, it was not possible to choose the number entered, and the order that the numbers are drawn was significant, as the numbers had to be matched in the same order for the player to win. Players had to match with the first number in order to start winning prizes (ranging from £2 to £500,000), which meant that 90% of players lost as soon as the first ball was drawn. Draws took place on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but only the Saturday draw was televised. The Wednesday draw took place prior to the live TV show and the winning dream number was announced during the show. All money raised for good causes from Dream Number went towards the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2012 Summer Paralympics in London. The National Lottery closed the Dream Number game on Wednesday 9 February 2011, which was also the date of the last Dream Number draw.

Daily Play

Daily Play
Match Prize Odds of winning
0 numbers £1 Daily Play
Lucky Dip Ticket
1 in 11.5
4 numbers £5 1 in 22.3
5 numbers £30 1 in 222.6
6 numbers £300 1 in 6,343.1
7 numbers £30,000 1 in 888,030
The overall odds of winning a prize were 1 in 7.4
Source: National Lottery Daily Play Game Rules & Procedures

The Daily Play draw could be played every day except Sunday and Christmas Day. By selecting seven numbers between 1 and 27, players could win anything from a free lucky dip to £30,000. The draw gave its players the chance to win a free daily play lucky-dip for not matching any numbers in the draw. The entry fee to the Daily Play draw was £1 per board. The draw had no TV broadcast or recorded online video, making it the only National Lottery ticket-based game with no video evidence that the draw took place. The National Lottery Daily Play Draw ended on Friday, May 6, 2011.[14]

Other ways to play

As well as by purchasing a ticket at a shop, tickets can be purchased many other ways.


All National Lottery games can be played online after registering. There are two ways of playing the lotto online.

Direct Debit. Players can sign up by registering their bank account details and their saved numbers will be automatically entered. The National Lottery notifies winners by email if they have won although this will not be on the evening of the draw and notification is usually by 12 noon the following day.

Loaded Account. Funds are loaded into a player's account and are played as required. The National Lottery notifies winners by email if they have won on the draw games, or in the case of the lower prize Instant Wins, transfer the winnings to their account. The current minimum loading amount is £5.00 GBP.


Players can play the Lotto, Dream Number, Thunderball, EuroMillions, Lotto HotPicks and Daily Play by text after registering their mobile phone number.

Sky Active

Lotto and EuroMillions were once available for play through Sky Active; however, this service was discontinued in September 2009. Prior to its discontinuation, players could purchase up to eight weeks worth of tickets at a time. [1]</ref>

Olympic Lottery

Following the success of London's bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, Olympic Lottery Scratchcards were launched on 27 July 2005 under the brand name "Go for Gold". 28% of the price of £1 goes to the Olympic Lottery Distribution Fund, and the scratchcards are intended to raise £750,000,000 (US$1.14 billion) towards the cost of running the games.

The National Lottery on television

The majority of National Lottery draws take place on live television. The first National Lottery show (entitled The National Lottery Live: The First Draw) was at 19:00 on Saturday 19 November 1994. Presented by Noel Edmonds, this was an hour long special, in which 49 contestants competed to become the first person to start the draw, the first person being 18 year old Deborah Walsh. The first number ever to be drawn was 30. For its first few years, the TV show took the title The National Lottery Live, and was presented mainly by Anthea Turner or Bob Monkhouse. On 30 November 1996, live on BBC, the draw machine failed to start.[15]

On 20 May 2006, during the draw on The National Lottery Jet Set that took place minutes before the Eurovision Song Contest 2006, several members of the group Fathers 4 Justice protested on the set causing the show to be taken off air for several minutes while the protesters were removed from the studio.[16][17]

Traditionally, the draws would take place in the BBC studio during the game show on a Saturday. However, in more recent years, the channel airing the lottery draw has prerecorded the non-draw parts of the show and then switched to 'National Lottery HQ', a designated studio for the live draws.

Wednesday draws have their own 10-minute slot on BBC One, which is hosted by various presenters in the National Lottery HQ Studio, such as Gethin Jones, Christopher Biggins and Scott Mills, with Alan Dedicoat providing the commentary. As of 16 July 2011 there have been a total of 1620 draws which consist of 752 Wednesday draws and 868 Saturday draws. In a plan to spread BBC productions across the United Kingdom, all lottery shows will be relocating to BBC Scotland. UK Gold additionally hosted the Euromillions: Boom Bang show, which was broadcast every Friday.

National Lottery Xtra

Between 10 March 2008 and 1 February 2010, the "National Lottery Xtra" channel was broadcast on Freeview channel 45 for one hour a day. Programming included content from winners of the jackpot and National Lottery Good Causes projects, as well as behind-the-scenes footage on how the National Lottery was operated.

Good causes

It was announced during the live Saturday night draw show on 30 March 2007 that The National Lottery has so far raised £20 billion (US$39.2 billion) for 'good causes', a programme which distributes money via grants. 28% of lottery revenue goes towards the fund, along with all unclaimed prizes. Additionally, 12% goes to the state. The prize fund is 50% of revenue, with the remaining 10% going towards running costs and profits for the lottery organisers and ticket sellers.

The distribution of money to 'good causes' is not the responsibility of the operator (Camelot). It is the responsibility of The National Lottery Distribution Fund (NLDF), administered by the government Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The Heritage Lottery Fund was set up by the government in 1994 to provide money for "projects involving the local, regional and national heritage". The fund come from the money raised by the National Lottery's 'Good Causes'.[18] Since 1994, the Heritage Lottery Fund has given grants totalling approximately £4 billion to more than 26,000 projects.[18]

In 2004 on the 10th anniversary of the National Lottery, the National Lottery Awards were instituted as an annual event to provide recognition of the work of Lottery funded projects around the UK. Certain projects are selected as the best in particular categories. The trophies were designed and produced by Gaudio Awards.

Unclaimed prizes

Winning tickets must be claimed within 180 days of the draw taking place. If a prize is unclaimed within that time, it is distributed through the Lotto's Good Causes fund. The highest unclaimed prize distributed this way to date was a winning ticket worth £9,476,995 which expired at 17.30 GMT on Monday, 2 January 2006.[19] This ticket was the 24th prize in excess of one million pounds to be unclaimed.


The National Lottery is regulated by the National Lottery Commission — a non-departmental public body reporting to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Until 1 April 1999 the National Lottery was regulated by the Office of the National Lottery (known by the acronym OFLOT).

The Lottery was set up in 1993 under the National Lottery etc. Act 1993[20] and was reformed under the National Lottery Act 1998[21] and the National Lottery Act 2006[22]

The National Lottery is a member of the World Lottery Association.[23]

Machine appearances

Below is a table of how many times each machine has appeared in the main National Lottery, or Lotto game.

As of 17 September 2011:

Machine Appearances
Amethyst 172
Arthur 298
Galahad 52
Garnet 16
Guinevere2 260
Lancelot 211
Magnum1 0
Merlin 139
Moonstone 66
Opal 56
Pearl 32
Sapphire 135
Topaz 157
Vyvyan 48

1Magnum is the designated spare machine, and thus has yet to be used.

2Also note, on the draw on Saturday 17 September 2011, they announced that Arthur with set of balls 3 was chosen, but they were using Guinevere due to technical difficulties. Arthur wasn't used again until the draw on Saturday 8 October 2011.

Ball set uses

As of 17 September 2011

Set Number Uses
1 192
2 204
3 209
4 212
5 192
6 206
7 204
8 160
9 0
10 4
11 21
12 18
13 0
14 20

Game shows

  • Big Ticket (28 March 1998 - 11 July 1998)
  • We've Got Your Number (27 February 1999 - 15 May 1999)
  • Winning Lines (12 June 1999 - 16 October 2004)
  • Red Alert (13 November 1999 - 8 April 2000)
  • On the Spot (29 July 2000 - 2 September 2000)
  • Jet Set (13 January 2001 - 8 August 2007)
  • In It to Win It (18 May 2002 – present)
  • Wright Around the World (25 October 2003 - 8 January 2005)
  • Come and Have a Go If You Think You're Smart Enough (3 April 2004 - 25 June 2005)
  • Millionaire Manor (3 December 2005 - 4 March 2006)
  • 1 vs. 100 (30 September 2006 - 23 May 2009)
  • The People's Quiz (24 March 2007 - 23 June 2007)
  • Who Dares Wins (17 November 2007 – present)
  • This Time Tomorrow (5 July 2008 - 23 August 2008)
  • Guesstimation (11 July 2009 - 29 August 2009)
  • Secret Fortune (12 February 2011 – present)

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Wilson, Jamie (1999-01-30). "New lottery fund 'not a stealth tax'". London: Guardian.,,321858,00.html. Retrieved 2009-05-20. 
  3. ^ The overwhelming case for paying stealth taxes Samuel Brittan, The Financial Times 25 October 1999 as the Jamie Wilson The Guardian 30 January 1999
  4. ^ "Camelot Group". Retrieved 2009-05-20. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ 1994: Camelot wins UK lottery race BBC On This Day
  7. ^ UK National Lottery #1
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Lotto retailer Rules and Game Procedures". 2009-02-01. Retrieved 2009-05-20. 
  11. ^ 2011 Saturday Lottery Ticket Sales Figures
  12. ^ 2011 Wednesday Lottery Ticket Sales Figures
  13. ^ "Playing Lotto Plus 5". 2010-11-05. Retrieved 2010-11-05. 
  14. ^ Daily Play Lottery Comes to an End
  15. ^ Video of the Show
  16. ^ "Lottery show delayed by protest". BBC News (London). 20 July 2006. Retrieved 6 February 2011. 
  17. ^ Youtube Video of The Protest
  18. ^ a b "What is the Heritage Lottery Fund?". Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  19. ^ "BBC NEWS - Lottery prize fund goes unclaimed". BBC News. 2 January 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-16. 
  20. ^ Official text of the National Lottery etc. Act 1993 (c. 39) as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database Last acessed:2011-05-03
  21. ^ Official text of the National Lottery Act 1998 (c. 22) as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database
  22. ^ Official text of the National Lottery Act 2006 (c. 23) as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database Last acessed:2011-05-03
  23. ^ World Lottery Association United Kingdom

External links

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