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History of the National Lottery

The National Lottery is a regular public lottery that was launched in the UK in 1994. Lotteries were illegal by default in the UK as far back as 1698, with the exception of state lotteries, which were introduced by the Bank of England as a way of generating funds for good causes and to go to war. It wasn't until 1934, with further amendments in 1956 and 1976, that small lottery was legally permitted.

The National Lottery's first draw took place live on BBC One on Saturday, November 19, 1994, and was hosted by Noel Edmonds. Seven lucky jackpot winners emerged from that first draw, with each pocketing a share of the almost £6 million jackpot.

One of the most popular forms of gambling in the UK, the National Lottery has undergone a series of changes and upgrades over the years to keep it fresh and appealing, including adding new games, changing the logo and tweaking the prize breakdowns.

Name Changed to Lotto

One of the biggest sets of changes that the National Lottery undertook was in 2002, which saw the launch of a major rebranding programme in an effort to combat a drop in sales. Changes included a redesign of the familiar crossed-fingers logo, an upgrade of the machines used to draw the numbered balls and the renaming of the main game from the National Lottery to Lotto.

The brand's side game Lottery Extra was also renamed to Lotto Extra, but this was later discontinued due to low ticket sales.

Despite the renaming efforts, the overall brand is still known as the National Lottery, with the group's website also named as such.

UK National Lottery better known as Lotto

The National Lottery Goes Online

In 2003, the National Lottery launched the ability for players to buy their draw tickets online via the brand's website. This came as an addition to the online versions of scratch cards that were already available to play on the website as of a few months prior.

Players can open an account, choose their winning lotto numbers hotpicks and buy tickets for the draws between 6 am and 11 pm every day, or until 7.30 pm on draw days, as is the same for offline ticket purchases. Winnings are then paid directly to the player's National Lottery online account or into their bank account.

The move was designed for several reasons. Firstly, it was part of efforts to revitalise and modernise the brand as a way to address fluctuating sales. Secondly, it was hoped that enabling people to buy tickets online would make the games more accessible

And thirdly, the development of an online site for the awarding of winnings was seen as an effective way of tackling the issue of unclaimed prizes.

  • 45 million tickets sold for each draw
  • Launched in 1994
  • The price for a ticket is £2
  • Odds of winning any prize are 1 in 9.3
  • Available only within the UK
  • Odds of winning any prize are 1 in 45,057,474

How to Play the UK National Lottery

Though there are currently six different games offered by the National Lottery, it's the main Lotto draws on Saturdays, and to a lesser extent Wednesdays, that attract the most attention, with up to 45 million tickets sold for each draw.

Playing the UK National Lottery is very easy, with players able to buy tickets online, in the many Amazon stores or in various shops across the country before the draws, the results of which are shown live via the website and on TV.

Let's take a closer look at how to play the National Lottery's main Lotto game.

Since 2013, the price of a UK lottery ticket hasn't changed from £2

National Lottery Ticket Purchase

The first step players must take in order to play the National Lottery's Lotto draw is to buy tickets. Luckily, this is very easy to do. Lotto tickets can be bought from almost all supermarkets, newsagents, petrol stations and the Post Office. In addition, players have the option of opening an account at the National Lottery website and buying their tickets online.

Though the cost to play one line in the Lotto draw used to be just £1, the National Lottery increased this to £2 in 2013.

Note that to be eligible to play the National Lottery draw games, you must be 18 or over, a resident in the UK or Isle of Man and physically present in the country when purchasing your ticket.

Number Selection

Lotto draws take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with the results of each determined by an automatic drawing machine that mixes the numbered balls and selects the winning numbers at random.

Six main numbers are drawn from the set of 59 balls numbered 1 to 59.

In order to play in the Lotto, you need to buy a lottery ticket, which means you'll need to choose which numbers you think will emerge from the draw. For each line on the ticket, choose six numbers from 1 to 59. If you can't decide, you can choose the Lucky Dip option to have six numbers chosen for you at random.

Bonus Ball Selection

During each Lotto draw, six main numbers are randomly selected by the machine, but after those six have been selected, an additional Bonus Ball number is also chosen at random from the remaining 53 numbered balls in the machine.

The purpose of this Bonus Ball is to give those who have matched five numbers an extra chance of winning a life-changing sum of money, with the prize for matching five numbers plus the Bonus Ball being significantly more than the prize for matching just five numbers (see prize breakdown further down).

Players don't need to do anything extra to play for a Bonus Ball prize as the six selected numbers in the ticket could each be chosen as the Bonus Ball. The Bonus Ball prize only applies to tickets with five matching numbers.

National Lottery Winning Odds

So what are your chances of winning a prize in the UK National Lottery's Lotto draw? 

Overall, your odds of winning any prize are 1 in 9.3. If you're interested in bagging the jackpot or top prize, you should know that the odds of doing so are 1 in 45,057,474. Your chances of just being lucky enough to match five numbers plus the Bonus Ball are 1 in 7,509,579. How about the rest of the prizes?

Moving further down the prize line, you have a 1 in 144,415 chance of matching five numbers, a 1 in 2,180 chance of matching four numbers, a 1 in 97 chance of matching three numbers and 1 in 10.3 chance of matching two numbers.

National Lottery Prize Breakdown

How many are prizes in the National Lottery's Lotto draw? Lotto prizes range from a Lucky Dip ticket at the bottom end of the scale all the way up to the jackpot prize at the top end, which can reach several million pounds.

Here's a breakdown of all the prizes for the National Lottery's Lotto draws:

Match Numbers Prize
6 numbers Jackpot
5 numbers + Bonus Ball £1 Million
5 numbers £1,750
4 numbers £140
3 numbers £30
2 numbers Free Lucky Dip

The Free Lucky Dip prize is credited as a Lucky Dip entry for the next Lotto draw.

If there is more than one jackpot winner, the jackpot is split equally between the winners. The other prizes used to follow the same pattern but currently, they are paid out as set amounts.

What happens if no one wins the UK lotto jackpot

UK Lottery Rollovers

In the event that no one wins the main jackpot prize in a Lotto draw, the jackpot is added to the next Lotto draw's jackpot fund. This is called a rollover.

Rollovers can happen a maximum of five times before the accumulated funds are shared across the various prize breakdowns in a Must be Won draw in the event that there are still no jackpot winners.

It's much more common for rollovers to occur on Wednesday Lotto draws compared to Saturday draws due to the fact that fewer tickets are sold for the former.

Rollovers can see the jackpot amounts increase dramatically, making them particularly attractive.

The National Lottery Superdraw

The National Lottery's operating company, Camelot Group, is also responsible for running the popular EuroMillions draw in which residents of eligible countries including the UK, Ireland, Spain, France and Portugal can play for cash prizes. 

EuroMillions draws take place every Tuesday and Friday, but up to three times a year, one draw is chosen as a Superdraw with a bumper jackpot of at least£100 million!

The Jackpot of the UK Lotto

The base jackpot amount is £2 million for Wednesday Lotto draws and £3.8 million for Saturday Lotto draws, but due to rollovers, these amounts can increase as it's quite common for draws to take place that results in no jackpot winners.

Since there can only be a maximum of five rollovers before a Must Be Won draw takes place, these special draws have an estimated jackpot value of £11 million on Wednesdays and £12 million on Saturdays.

BIGGEST Ever UK Lottery Jackpot

The biggest ever jackpot won by a UK lottery player was the £170.2 million EuroMillions jackpot, which had reached its jackpot cap on October 8, 2019.

Before that, the holders of the largest UK lottery jackpot payout were Colin and Chris Weir from Ayrshire, Scotland, who won just over £161 million in the EuroMillions draw of July 12, 2011.

Though the Lotto jackpots are significantly smaller than the EuroMillions jackpots, they are still life-changing, as David and Carol Martin, the two lucky winners of the biggest Lotto jackpot amount to just over £33 million can testify. 

Remember this lottery is available only for gamblers coming from the UK.

Lottery draws take place on wednesdays & saturdays

When is the National Lottery

The National Lottery's main Lotto draws take place every Wednesday at 8 pm and every Saturday at 7.45 pm.

The National Lottery also runs other lottery draws throughout the week, including the EuroMillions, which takes place at 8.45 pm every Tuesday and Friday, the Thunderball numbers draw, which is taking place at 8 pm on Tuesdays and Fridays and 8.15 pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and the Set For Life draws, which run at 8 pm on Mondays and Thursdays

There are also special lotteries for the most important events, such as Black Friday, Christmas and New Years Eve.

Here's a handy table with the draw days and times:

Lottery Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Lotto - - 8 pm - - 7.45 pm -
Euro Millions - 8.45 pm - - 8.45 pm - -
Thunderball - 8 pm 8.15 pm - 8 pm 8.15 pm -
Set For Life 8 pm - - 8 pm - - -

Livestream on the BBC Channel

The Lotto draws used to be televised in a game show type setup and broadcast live every Wednesday and Saturday night on BBC One. However, since 2017, the draws have been reduced to draw-only broadcasts on the BBC's on-demand platform, BBC iPlayer.

The Saturday night Lotto draws are currently broadcast live on ITV/STV in a 90-second draw-only presentation.

Other ways of watching the draw live include via the National Lottery website and on YouTube.

National Lottery Results

There are several ways to check the results of the National Lottery's Lotto draws to see if you've won a prize. Following the draw as it happens used to be the most popular way of finding out the results when the draws were still broadcast with some fanfare on TV.

However, these days it's much more common to check the Lotto results by visiting the Results page on the National Lottery website. If you're a member of the National Lottery website and have bought your Lotto tickets online, there is an option to allow the site to email you if you've won a prize, which is a handy feature that many players take advantage of.

You can also find Lotto results appearing in many printed newspapers and their associated websites, although the best and most reliable option is to check with the National Lottery directly. 

For the latest results click here.

National Lottery App

The National Lottery website is the best place to go for buying Lotto tickets at a time that suits you (before each draw's cutoff time of 7.30 pm and within the site's active hours of 6 am to 11 pm, that is).

However, in 2017 Camelot Group also developed and released an app for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, allowing players to buy tickets and check results on the go.

Available on the App Store and Google Play and linked to directly from the National Lottery website, the National Lottery app lets you buy tickets for all the major draws: Lotto, EuroMillions, Thunderball and Set For Life. You can also save numbers you want to play lotto on a regular basis and choose Lucky Dips if you can't decide which numbers to play.

In addition, there's a range of instant games such as online scratch cards that can be played via the app.

Another feature that's unique to the app is the ticket scanning function, which allows you to scan shop-bought tickets to check for winning matches.

Learn how to download the UK National Lottery App

How to Download on Smartphone

If you want to download and use the National Lottery app on your smartphone, check first to ensure that your specific device meets the minimum specified requirements. Your device must be running Android 5.0 or higher for the app to be compatible, while Apple devices must be running on iOS 9.0 or higher for the app to work.

In terms of size, you can expect the iOS app to come in at around 180 MB with the Android app taking up 120 MB.

Downloading and installing the app is very easy. Simply search for The National Lottery: Official app on Google Play for Android devices or the App Store for iOS devices, or you can click on the relevant option from the National Lottery lotto website's App Download page (Visit national-lottery.co.uk) to jump directly to the relevant page for your device.

Click to download and install the app, accepting any popup messages that appear requesting permission where appropriate. Once installed, open the app by clicking on it then log in using your existing details if you already have an account or you can open a new account.

Once you're logged in, you can then buy tickets, check results and play instant games directly from your mobile device!

National Lottery Account Suspended

It's important to realise that playing draw-based games like those offered by the National Lottery is still gambling and as such, the operator is required by law to keep a close eye on all activity on their website and mobile app to ensure player safety and fulfil their duties in terms of responsible gaming.

One of the actions that the National Lottery can take is to suspend your account. This can be done for several reasons including the discovery of duplicate accounts, exceeding deposit and/or play limits or entering the wrong payment details.

Note that there is a play limit of £500 per week and if you exceed this you can expect to find your account suspended and inaccessible for a period of three months.

These measures are in place to protect players from developing problem gambling habits and prevent fraud, so make sure you're aware of them.

More About the UK Lottery

The UK's National Lottery is about much more than just giving people the chance to win life-changing sums of money. While 53% of the total National Lottery funds go towards the prizes, 25% goes to a range of charities and other benevolent organisations as determined by the government. 

Another 12% of funds go directly to the government in the form of lottery duty, 4% goes to retailers and Camelot takes 5%, of which 4% covers operating costs, leaving 1% as profit for the group.

Many people wonder if you can expect the taxman to take a chunk of your National Lottery winnings. Luckily, in the UK, National Lottery prizes are paid in a lump sum (except Set For Life prizes, which are paid monthly) and are tax-free!

National Lottery Advert

As a state-funded lottery, the National Lottery has a long history of advertising on traditional media and in recent times, more modern media too. 

It's common for adverts for upcoming draws, especially those with larger than usual jackpots, to be broadcast on various radio stations and on TV. Though the BBC operates on a TV licence structure rather than through selling advertising space, since the corporation hosted the draws up until very recently, they promoted them between programmes too. 

Now that the National Lottery draws are being hosted by ITV, there are standalone adverts for them on the advertising-backed channel.

Since the launch of the National Lottery's website, the brand has also used online advertising as a way of reaching a wider audience.

National Lottery adverts have had a variety of themes over the years, with many of them featuring well-known celebrities as a way of drawing attention. The focus of these adverts is usually either playing a little to potentially win a lot or playing as a way of donating to worthy causes.

National Lottery Christmas

Christmas is always an exciting time of year but things can get even more thrilling when it comes to the National Lottery. The standard Lotto draw doesn't tend to change very much for the festive season in terms of jackpot payouts, unless there's been a rollover, of course. 

However, the live show that surrounds the draw is often dressed up in Christmas decorations to make the event feel even more special, especially if the draw happens to fall on Christmas Day.

The National Lottery owned EuroMillions draw has its own separate additional draws, one of which is the UK Millionaire Maker, and it's this one that is quite often inflated for Christmas with the jackpot amounts boosted in many cases and more millionaires drawn than usual. In addition to the cash prizes, luxury trips and holidays are quite often awarded around Christmas too.

National Lottery Minimum Age

Since the launch of the National Lottery back in November 1994 right up until April 2021, people aged 16 and over were permitted to buy lottery tickets. This stood true for scratch cards too once they were launched in March 1995. 

However, from April 22, 2021, anyone buying either lottery tickets or scratch cards, whether online or offline, must be at least 18 years old, bringing the UK's National Lottery in line with other gambling services operating within the country under the UK Gambling Commission's remit.

The rule change means that traditional lottery ticket retailers such as supermarkets and newsagents are tasked with ensuring consumers are of the required legal age. As such, you may be asked to show proof of age when buying your tickets at retailers.

Buying tickets online requires you to open an account on the National Lottery's website and part of the sign-up process requires you to verify your age in line with the regulations. If you're found to be underage, you could face having your account closed and any winnings removed.

Ready to try your luck  with the UK Lottery

Final Thoughts on the UK Lotto

The UK's National Lottery has remained largely a success since its inception in 1994 when it burst onto British TV screens on that first Saturday night and every one thereafter, giving the average Joe Public the chance to win life-changing sums of money

Though it's had its ups and downs over the years, including a fair amount of criticism, overprize breakdowns, machine hiccups and their choice of 'good causes', it remains a much-loved part of UK culture.

Starting off as just a single draw on a Saturday night, the National Lottery has expanded to offer a variety of draws on almost every day of the week. The brand has also created its own wide and ever-growing range of scratch cards that don't require you to wait for a draw to find out whether or not you're a winner. 

Thanks to modern technology, you can now play National Lottery draw games online via the website or on your smartphone or tablet, making them even more accessible than ever. And with multiple millions up for grabs almost every day, who could resist?

National Lottery UK FAQs

Looking for more info about the UK National Lottery? Check out the answers to our readers' questions below.

What time is the National Lottery draw?

There are currently four main National Lottery games you can play, with each one being drawn on different days of the week and sometimes at different times too. The most popular of the four lotteries is the Lotto (formerly National Lottery), which is drawn at 7.45 pm UK time every Saturday and 8 pm every Wednesday. The popular EuroMillions draws take place at 8.45 pm every Tuesday and Friday. The Thunderball draws take place at 8 pm on Tuesdays and Fridays and at 8.15 pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Finally, the Set For Life draws happen at 8 pm on Mondays and Thursdays.

How quickly does the National Lottery email you if you win?

If you buy your National Lottery tickets online from the National Lottery website, you will get an email if any of your tickets win a prize. The time it takes for you to receive this notification email will vary but it's usually sometime shortly after the draw, though sometimes it may not be until the following morning. Be careful as many fraudsters these days use organisations' branding as a way of collecting personal information and sadly bogus National Lottery emails are not uncommon. Official National Lottery emails will not usually tell you how much you have won unless it's a Lucky Dip ticket for the next draw. If you suspect an email's legitimacy, do not click any links. Instead, confirm any potential wins by logging in to your National Lottery account directly and reporting the email.

How to play the National Lottery?

The National Lottery's main Lotto draw is very easy to play. Before 7.30 pm on the day of the draw, choose six numbers from 1 to 59 or select Lucky Dip for a random selection, with each set of six numbers costing you £2. In the draw, six numbers plus an additional Bonus Ball number will be drawn at random by the machine. If two or more of your six chosen numbers are drawn, you'll win a prize ranging from a Lucky Dip ticket for the next draw up to the jackpot amount, depending on how many numbers you matched. Tickets for the draws can be bought at supermarkets, petrol stations, the Post Office or online via the National Lottery website.

When did the National Lottery start?

The first National Lottery draw took place on Saturday, November 19, 1994, and was televised live on BBC One.

Who owns the National Lottery?

The National Lottery is run by Camelot UK Lotteries Limited, which is owned and operated by Camelot Group, and licensed by the UK Gambling Commission.

What channel is the National Lottery on?

Though the National Lottery draws used to be shown live on BBC One since 2018 they have instead been shown on ITV/STV. You can also see the draws live on the National Lottery website and on the BBC iPlayer.

How much is the National Lottery?

Each line of six numbers that you choose to play in the National Lottery's Lotto draw costs £2. The price of tickets for the other draw-based lottery games run by the National Lottery vary.

What are the odds of winning the National Lottery?

Your overall odds of winning a prize in the National Lottery's Lotto draw are 1 in 9.3. The odds of winning a prize will decrease as the prize values increase, as is to be expected. Your chances of winning the lowest price, which is a Lucky Dip for the next draw, are 1 in 10.3, whereas the odds of you scooping the jackpot are 1 in 45,057,474.

How to delete a National Lottery account?

If you want to delete your online National Lottery account, this can be done quickly and easily. First, make sure you're logged into your account then click on My Account within your menu. Under Manage Account, click on Account and password settings and you'll see the option to Close Account. You'll then see some notes about what will happen when you close your account. If you're happy, click the Confirm Account Closure button at the bottom to close your account.

How to win the National Lottery?

To win a prize playing the National Lottery's Lotto game, at least two of your six chosen numbers must match the drawn numbers. The prize breakdowns can be viewed further up the page.

How many numbers are in the National Lottery?

The National Lottery's Lotto draw consists of 59 balls numbered from 1 to 59. Each draw selects six main numbers and one Bonus Ball number at random using a special draw machine.

UK Gambling News

Mike Lorente
Mike Lorente
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Mike has worked as a freelance writer, focusing mostly on writing reviews and opinions on online casinos. In these past years, he has come to know in-depth how casinos operate and what to look for when choosing a casino. He is always happy to share new tips and strategies aimed to help you in your gaming journey. Based in Spain, Mike is a specialist in casino games and a master when it comes to online slot machines, sharing his strategies and tips on our website.
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