Not to be confused with Ireland’s National Lottery, the UK National Lottery is one of the United Kingdom’s favorite lotteries other than Euromillions that has changed the lives of many since its launch in 1994.

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.[2]

All prizes are paid as a lump sum and are tax-free. Of all money spent on National Lottery games, 50% goes to the prize fund, 28% to ‘good causes’ as set out by Parliament (though some of this is considered by some to be a stealth tax[3] levied to support the Big Lottery Fund, a fund constituted to support public spending[4]), 12% to the UK Government as duty, 5% to retailers as commission, and a total of 5% to operator Camelot, with 4.5% to cover operating costs and 0.5% as profit.[5] Lottery tickets and scratch cards may be bought only by people of at least 16 years of age.

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 franchised to a private operator; the Camelot Group was awarded the franchise on 25 May 1994.[6]

The first draw took place on 19 November 1994 with a television programme presented by Noel Edmonds. The first numbers drawn were 3 5 14 22 30 44, 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 2 December 1999 at the request of Tynwald.

IMG_1798The National Lottery undertook a major rebranding programme in 2002 designed to combat falling sales. The main game was renamed Lotto, and the National Lottery Extra became Lotto Extra. The stylized crossed-fingers logo was modified.[8] 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 the names of 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.[9][10]

Current games


Players buy tickets with their choice of six different numbers between 1 and 49; there is provision for random numbers to be generated automatically for those who do not wish to choose, known as ‘Lucky Dip’.

In the draw, six numbered balls are drawn without replacement from a set of 49 balls numbered from 1 to 49. A further Bonus Ball is also drawn, which affects only players who match five numbers.

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.

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 was introduced in 2010[16] 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.


For more details on this topic, see EuroMillions.

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 are 116,531,799 to 1.

Scratchcards and online 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 £4,000,000 on a £10 scratchcard.[18] Other scratchcards involve matching symbols, pictures or words. The highest possible prize currently for a £1 scratchcard is £100,000.



  • Players must be 16 years or older
  • Tickets may be bought in person at approved premises in the UK, or online over the Internet
  • Online purchase of tickets from the National Lottery website is restricted to people who have a UK bank account (for debit card or direct debit purposes), and are resident in the UK or Isle of Man, and are physically present in the UK or Isle of Man when making the ticket purchase.
  • The ticket purchaser for a syndicate, typically its manager, must meet the eligibility criteria for ticket purchase. Syndicate members must 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


The husband and wife, from Largs in Ayrshire, said they were “tickled pink” after becoming Europe’s biggest lottery winners in July 2011.

Married for 30 years and with two children, the life-changing £161 million prize catapulted them into the Sunday Times Rich List above Beatle Ringo Starr and Sir Tom Jones.

Psychiatric nurse Mrs Weir, 55, and Mr Weir, 64, who worked as a TV cameraman and studio manager for 23 years, have reportedly bought a fleet of cars for friends since their win as well as a mansion.