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The National Lottery is the largest lottery in the United Kingdommarker. 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. The National Lottery undertook a major rebranding programme in 2002 designed to combat falling sales. This resulted in the main game being renamed Lotto. 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.

All prizes are paid as a lump sum and are tax-free. Of every pound (£) spent on Lottery games, 50 pence (p) goes to the prize fund, 28p to 'good causes' as set out by Parliamentmarker (though some of this is considered by some to be a stealth tax levied to support the Big Lottery Fund, a fund constituted to support public spending), 12p to the British Government as duty and 5p to retailers as commission, while Camelot receives 4.5p to cover operating costs and 0.5p profit. 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.

There are twelve different machines that can be used for the Lotto draw. The machine and set of lottery balls to be used is selected at random, and is announced just prior to the draw. The machines are designated Merlin, Arthur, Galahad, Vyvyan, Lancelot, Garnet, Topaz, Opal, Amethyst, Moonstone, Pearl and Sapphire. Guinevere has also been a designated machine in the past but has now been retired. Ball sets, of which there are eight, are designated by number.


  • Players must be 16 or older
  • Retailer rules 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 — the only legal online site to buy UK lottery tickets — is limited to players who have a UK bank account (for debit card or direct debit purposes) and a UK residential address
  • 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


Several games operate under the National Lottery brand:


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, therefore each ball (including the bonus ball) can only be drawn once per Lotto draw. Players choose six different numbers by a method of their own choosing at the time they purchase a ticket. Ticket issuing machines can generate a random set of play numbers as a so-called Lucky Dip. 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 is only relevant to those players who match five of the six drawn numbers, whereby those players matching exactly five of the drawn numbers who also match the bonus ball receive a larger prize than those matching just 5 of the drawn 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, a so-called Rollover. This accumulation is limited to three consecutive draws. Rollover is a common occurrence, happening once every few draws, though a "treble roll-over" is a rather less common occurrence having happened only four times to date.

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.

The original brand identity (cross fingers logo) was created by Georgina Irwin, Stephen Payne and Derek Johnston whilst at Saatchi & Saatchi Design and awarded entry into the D&AD annual for the following year.

The game was rebranded 'Lotto' in 2002, with Johnston leading the further creative direction of the brand at Landor Associates. At that time the logo was given 'eyes' and a more friendly form to increase its general appeal.

Division of remaining funds after payout of 3-ball winners
Matching Numbers Prize Odds of winning
3 numbers £10 per winner 56.65592 to 1
4 numbers 22% of remaining fund 1,032.397 to 1
5 numbers 10% of remaining fund 55,491.33 to 1
5 numbers and bonus ball 16% of remaining fund 2,330,636 to 1
6 numbers 52% of remaining fund 13,983,815 to 1
The overall odds of winning any prize is 52.65514 to 1.
The 6/49 mentioned above also had an optional add-on game known as Extra which could be played for an additional £1. However, its only prize was for matching all six regular numbers drawn for the 6/49 jackpot (there were no lower-tier prizes; a perfect match was required.) It was discontinued in 2006.
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 and 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 describe 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.


Match Prize Odds of winning
1 + Thunderball £5 1 in 33
2 + Thunderball £10 1 in 107
3 numbers £10 1 in 74
3 + Thunderball £20 1 in 960
4 numbers £100 1 in 2,067
4 + Thunderball £250 1 in 26,866
5 numbers £5,000 1 in 299,661
5 + Thunderball £250,000 1 in 3,895,584
The first Thunderball draw was on 12 June 1999. Players pick five main numbers from 1 to 34 and one 'Thunderball' number from 1 to 14, for an entry fee of £1. Initially only held on Saturdays, draws currently take place every Saturday and Wednesday and are televised live on BBC One. The entry fee to the Lotto draw is £1 per board. The odds and payouts are as follows.

Dream Number

Dream Number
Match Prize Odds of winning
1st number only £2 1 in 11.12
1st 2 numbers £10 1 in 111.12
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 are 1 in 10.

Source: National Lottery Players Guide
Dream Number was launched on 15 July 2006. Dream Number involves generating a random seven digit number for entry into the draw. It can be played independently of Lotto, or if played with Lotto one Dream Number is generated per ticket, not per lotto entry. The cost of entry is £1. A dream number is automatically printed on every lotto ticket bought, whether the player has chosen to enter it into the draw or not. Unlike other Lotto games, it is not possible to choose the number entered, and the order that the numbers are drawn is important, since the numbers must be matched in order for the player to win. Players must match with the first number in order to start winning prizes (ranging from £2 to £500,000), which results in the unfortunate side-effect that 90% of players lose as soon as the first ball is drawn. Draws take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but only the Saturday draw is televised live on BBC One. The Wednesday draw takes place prior to the live TV show and the winning dream number is announced during the show. All money raised for good causes from Dream Number will go towards the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2012 Summer Paralympics in London.


As well as draw tickets, the National Lottery sells (through newsagents, supermarkets, and so on) 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.

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 being £100,000.citation needed Other scratchcards involve matching symbols, pictures or words.

The majority of National Lottery scratchcards are sold for £2. These are large scratchcards with two or more chances to win or with better odds than usual to win the maximum cash prize. Originally, all scratchcards were £1, however over recent years, the £2 scratchcards have become available in a wider range and the £1 scratchcards, which have a lower chance of winning, are now available on a lower scale. There are also scratchcards available for £5.

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 are 1 in 7.4

Source: National Lottery Daily Play Game Rules & Procedures
The Daily Play draw can be played every day but Sunday and Christmas Day. By selecting 7 numbers between 1 and 27, players can win anything from a free lucky dip to £30,000. The draw gives 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 is £1 per board. The draw currently has 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.


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 Parismarker. The UK, Francemarker and Spainmarker were involved initially. Lotteries from Austriamarker, Belgiummarker, Irelandmarker, Luxembourgmarker, Portugalmarker and Switzerlandmarker 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 76,275,360.

Instant Win Games

Instant Win Games are online games where the player can win up to £100,000 instantly. Some Instant Win Games are similar in format to scratchcards, with others involving more interactive play.

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.

Subscriptions. Sign up once through Direct Debit and your numbers will be automatically entered. The National Lottery will notify you by email if you 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. Load funds into your account and play as and when you want to. The National Lottery will notify you by email if you have won.


You can play Lotto, Dream Number, Thunderball, EuroMillions, Lotto HotPicks and Daily Play by text.

Sky Active

You can play Lotto and EuroMillions through Sky Active, buying up to 8 weeks worth of tickets at a time.

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$1.46 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, and linked to Noel's House Party, as Noel Edmonds drove a lorry from 'Crinkley Bottom' to the BBC Television Centre to present a special hour long show, where 49 contestants would battle it out 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 number 30. For its first few years, the TV Show took the title The National Lottery Live, and was presented mainly by Anthea Turner or the late Bob Monkhouse. Since, the National Lottery has been well represented on several TV game shows, including Jet Set with Eamonn Holmes, In It To Win It with Dale Winton, and 1 vs. 100 with Ben Shephard (who replaced original host Dermot O'Leary), all on BBC One. Also, the Euromillions: Boom Bang show which was broadcast every Friday on UKTV Gold. 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 will pre-record the non-draw parts of the show and then switch to 'National Lottery HQ', a designated studio for the live draws. The Draws have their own 10-minute slot on BBC One on Wednesdays, which is hosted by various presenters in the National Lottery HQ Studio, such as Gethin Jones, Christopher Biggins and Scott Mills. The National Lottery was also featured on the game show Winning Lines that aired from 1999–2004. This was hosted by Simon Mayo (1999–2000) and was later taken over by Phillip Schofield (2001–2004).

In a plan to spread BBC productions across the United Kingdom, all lottery shows will be relocating to BBC Scotland, as well as factual, drama, entertainment and comedy programmes.

National Lottery Xtra

From 10 March 2008, the 'National Lottery Xtra' channel began broadcasting on Freeview, channel 45 for an hour a day. Programming includes content from winners of the jackpot and National Lottery Good Causes projects as well as behind the scenes footage on how the National Lottery is 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'. Since 1994, the Heritage Lottery Fund has given grants totalling approximately £4 billion to more than 26,000 projects.

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.

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. 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 and was reformed under the National Lottery Act 1998 and the National Lottery Act 2006

Machine appearances

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

As of 4 March 2009:

Machine Appearances
Arthur 238
Guinevere 190
Lancelot 181
Amethyst 157
Topaz 121
Sapphire 112
Merlin 108
Moonstone 66
Opal 56
Galahad 52
Vyvyan 48
Pearl 32
Garnet 16

Game Shows


Nick Knowles hosts the series where knowledge is helpful, luck is useful, but guessing is crucial. Two families try to out-guess each other to win a dream holiday, with the help of unusual challenges performed by celebrity and Olympic guests. It also includes the weekend draws live from Lottery HQ.(July - August 2009)

Big 7

A celebration of all the good causes the lottery has supported over the years. Hosted by Nick Knowles and Myleene Klass (2009).


This Time Tomorrow

Hosted by Tess Daly. (2008)

1 vs 100

1 vs. 100 is a BBC National Lottery game show that is broadcasting on BBC One since 30 September 2006. The programme was originally hosted by Dermot O'Leary for the first 2 series then Ben Shephard took over to host the show from series 3 onwards. Repeats of the show are shown on Challenge.(2006–2009)

Who Dares Wins

Nick Knowles hosts the quiz where two teams of complete strangers compete by completing a series of lists. The team who name more correct answers on a list get the chance to play for £50,000.(2007–2008)

In It To Win It

Dale Winton presents the game show where more people compete for a big money jackpot.(2007–2009)

Jet Set/Jet Set 2012

A fast-moving Olympic-themed quiz show that offers contestants a chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime trip across the globe. Hosted by Eamonn Holmes. (2001–2007)

See also


External links

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