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The National Lottery is the 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.

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 levied to support the Big Lottery Fund, a fund constituted to support public spending), 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. 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 2,800 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 25 May 1994.

The first draw took place on 19 November 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.

Tickets became available on the Isle of Man on 2 December 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.

Lottery results and prize breakdown for: UK National Lottery, Draw date: 2016-08-13
Draw results
Match + Bonus
Estimated Jackpot
Match + Bonus
Prize Amount
5 + bonus
Match 5
Match 4
Match 3
  • Players must be 16 years 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 National Lottery website 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
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 on average once every few draws,[clarification needed] although a "treble rollover" is much less common. 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. On Saturday 5th November 2011 there was a Lotto Super Draw for the National Lottery awards for £10 million. The difference here is that if no one matches all 6 numbers it will not rollover to the next draw.

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 was first called The National Lottery, but was renamed Lotto in 2002 in order to combat falling ticket sales. Lotto is by far the most popular draw, with around 31 million tickets sold every Saturday and 18 million sold for the Wednesday draw.. the largest jackpot win was £42 million on 6 January 1996.

Matching Numbers Prize Odds of winning
3 £10 per winner 56 to 1
4 7% of remaining fund 1,031 to 1
5 10% of remianing fund 55,490 to 1
5 and bonus 16% of remianing fund 2,330,635 to one
6 52% of remianing fund 13,983,815 to 1
The overall odds of winning a prize is 54 to 1

Lotto hotpicks
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.

Match Prize Odds of winning
1 £5 1 in 9
2 £40 1 in 79
3 £450 1 in 922
4 £7,000 1 in 14,126
5 £130,000 1 in 317,814

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 1437
4 numbers £100 1 in 2,067 £100 1 in 3647
4 + Thunderball £250 1 in 26,866 £250 1 in 47,415
5 numbers £5000 1 in 299,661 £5000 1 in 620,000
5 + Thunderball £250,000 1 in 3,895,584 £500,000 1 in 8,060,598

Lotto plus 5
Lotto Plus 5 is a new game 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.

Match Prize Odds of winning
3 numbers £5 1 in 9
4 numbers £40 1 in 79
5 numbers £450 1 in 922
5 numbers and bonus ball £7,000 1 in 14,126
6 numbers £130,000 1 in 317,814
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.

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 £4,000,000 on a £10 scratchcard. Other scratchcards involve matching symbols, pictures or words. The highest possible prize currently for a £1 scratchcard is £100,000.

Initially, all scratchcards were sold for £1. Over the years, scratchcards that range in price from £2 to £10 have 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. Odds for winning a top prize on a scratchcard depend greatly on how many have been sold and whether there is any top prize scratchcards in circulation at time of purchase. Generally, the odds of winning a top prize are around 1 in 3,500,000 on most scratchcards.

Recently, Camelot have introduced a £10 scratchcard with the chance to instantly win £4,000,000.

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 in try or paid games. Players must be registered in order to buy or try an Instant Win. Try games are free of charge and no payouts are made in respect of any prizes which may be won on a try game. As with scratchcards there are a wide variety of Instant Win games available with different odds of winning prizes. Cost to play these games vary from as low as 25p, to a maximum currently of £5 per play. The current highest possible prize to win on Instant Wins is £40,000 per year for life on a £5 game. Odds of winning a top prize vary on each Instant Win game, and may be higher or lower than their scratchcard counterpart.

Discontinued games

Lotto Extra
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.

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

Dream numbers
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.

Match Prize Odds of winning
1st number only £2 1 in 13,983,815
1st 2 numbers £10 1 in 13,983,815
1st 3 numbers £100 1 in 13,983,815
1st 4 numbers £500 1 in 13,983,815
1st 5 numbers £5,000 1 in 13,983,815
1st 6 numbers £50,000 1 in 13,983,815
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]

Daily play
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, 6 May 2011.

Match Prize Odds of winning
0 numbers £1 Daily play lucky dip 1 in 11.5
1st 2 numbers £5 1 in 22.3
1st 3 numbers £30 1 in 222.6
1st 4 numbers £300 1 in 6,343.1
1st 5 numbers £30,000 1 in 888,030
The overall odds of winning any prize were 1 in 10. [Source: National Lottery Players Guide]

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, Thunderball, EuroMillions and Lotto HotPicks by text after registering their mobile phone number. The discontinued games Dream Number and Daily Play also allowed text entry.

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.

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. Other notable presenters during this period included Carol Smillie, Terry Wogan and Ulrika Jonsson. On 30 November 1996, live on BBC One, the draw machine failed to start.

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.

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 7th January 2012 there have been a total of 1678 draws which consist of 784 Wednesday draws and 894 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 lotto extra
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.
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

The National Lottery is a member of the World Lottery Association.
Machine appearances
Machine Appearance
Amethyst 172
Arthur 308
Galahad 52
Garnet 16
Guinevere2 271
Lancelot 228
Magnum 0
Merlin 165
Moonstone 66
Opal 56
Pearl 32
Sapphire 135
Topaz 157
Vyvyan 48

Magnum is the designated spare machine, and thus has yet to be used.
Also 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.
Also note, on the draw on Saturday 14 April 2012, they announced that Merlin with set of balls 5 was chosen, but they were using Lancelot due to technical difficulties. Merlin hasn't yet been used again since.
Also note, on the draw on Saturday 12 May 2012, they announced that Arthur with set of balls 5 was chosen, but they were using Lancelot due to technical difficulties. Arthur hasn't yet been used again since.

Ball set use

Set Number Uses
1 200
2 214
3 218
4 222
5 198
6 213
7 211
8 167
9 0
10 4
11 21
12 18
13 0
14 20