- How do I play the UK National Lotto ?
There are four ways to play Camelot's lotto games:
- In person
Fill in a playslip at your nearest Lotto retailer and
pay in cash for up to 16 draws' worth of numbers. You
have up to 2 hours to cancel the ticket, but note that you can't just say
"I don't like the numbers" (e.g. for a Lucky Dip) - valid reasons would
include the ticket not being printed properly or the assistant gave you
the wrong type of ticket (e.g. a Lucky Dip instead of fixed numbers).
This is the only way a non-UK citizen can legally play the UK Lotto
(i.e. they have to be physically in the UK when buying the ticket).
You can take out a subscription by post or
via the official Camelot site. Note that subscriptions are
only open to people with a UK bank account and a UK residential address,
but you can pay for them with direct debit, a cheque or a postal order
(online purchase is via a debit card).
The official Camelot
now includes the ability to play the main UK Lotto, Thunderball,
Daily Play and Euro Millions games via online purchasing of tickets.
This requires a
UK debit card that "tops up" a kitty from which you purchase tickets and
winnings are credited back to the debit card.
- Sky Digital
The interactive services of Sky Digital (UK satellite TV) now include
the ability to buy UK lottery tickets. Although I have Sky Digital at home,
I rarely ever go into the interactive sevices because a lot of them require
phone line usage (I've disconnected my Digibox from the phone line because
it's more than one year old) and it's slow and cumbersome to use (I have
broadband at home, which is vastly superior to anything offered by Sky
Digital's interactive service).
IMPORTANT NOTE: Any Web site selling
UK lottery tickets that isn't the official site at
is almost certainly breaking the law and you should not buy tickets
from them. These scam sites usually charge more than the £1 ($1.90) face
value per ticket and often amazingly want 10% of any of your big winnings too !
- Why do the full results take so darned long to be released ?
The results have to double-checked with OFLOT and they only release the full
details at 5.00am the next day. Personally, I think it would be better to
live TV draw
display full "provisional results", which are confirmed
later on. Apparently, Camelot know the full provisional results within
minutes of the draw !
- Why is the jackpot so big - often 50 times the size of the
5+bonus prize when you're only 6 times less likely to win the jackpot than
the 5+bonus prize ?
52% of the prize money after 3 match £10 winners have been deducted goes
purely on jackpot prizes, whereas only 16% goes to 5+bonus winners. This fact,
plus unwon Super Draws or rollovers means that it possible for an
individual to win a tax-free lump sum of about £50 million. Note that the
Player Code Of
Practice booklet says this in its introduction: "The UK National Lotto is
likely to be the largest in the world". Perhaps in the number of tickets sold
for a particular draw, but not in the jackpot prize size because Camelot
have annoyingly restricted the number of rollovers to 3 (after the fourth
consecutive unwon draw, the money is split amongst the 5+bonus winners of that
- This Camelot phone line thing (0845 9100000) - is it any good ?
Actually, it's surprisingly useful and only charged at local call rates !
It now finally has the choice of a tone-activated or voice-activated front
end (introduced on Sunday 22nd December 1996, over 2 years too late, IMHO).
The first option and then the fourth sub-option in the tone-activated interface
puts you through to a human, who usually has all the info in front of them,
so if you add *114 to the end of the main phone number, you should dial
straight through to a person.
The human option is, however, only available during these times:
Wed,Fri,Sat: 09.00-23.00 (draw days of course)
It has been estimated that this lottery phone line (based at Aintree near
Liverpool) takes about 30,000 calls a week from the general public.
- Are Camelot on the Internet ?
Yes ! They initially launched a frames-only WWW site at
"http://www.national-lottery.co.uk/", which was later
revamped (and de-framed) by Red Kite
New Media on Saturday 8th November 1997.
Official Camelot stationery included the URL in the footer from late June 1996
- What computer hardware and software is used by Camelot to handle the lottery ?
Both the main lottery and the Instants are handled by seven multi-processor
DEC VAX 7630's, each of which has 40GB of disk attached. Three of the machines
are at Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire and four are at the secondary data centre
in Aintree, Merseyside. Five DEC Alpha 3800's handle auxiliary tasks such as
the retailer hotline and a further three deal with the internal control and
auditing. Machines have an average 99.7% uptime during a typical 17-hour
The software is written by
GTech Corporation and can handle 450,000
transactions a minute (the peak to date is 51,000 in one minute, which is
a world record for a lottery !). 6MB of information is processed every second
during peak times, but the software does not use a relational database
unsurprisingly - the data is stored in flat files instead for speed.
- If a very popular set of numbers, e.g. 1 to 6, are drawn and there are, say,
5 million 3-match winners - more than enough to wipe out the total prize pool -
what happens ?
A rule concerning this came into effect from Sunday 17th March 1996 onwards. If
the total number of winners in all categories * £10 exceeds the total
prize pool (excluding any rollover or Super Draw money),
then every winner (3-match through to the jackpot winners) gets the
same prize, which is the total prize pool divided by the total number of
winners, rounded down to the nearest pound. Any rollover/Super Draw
money is treated separately and divided equally into the appropriate category
(usually the 6-match winners).
In this "nightmare scenario" (large number of winners in a non-rollover draw/
Super Draw), a jackpot winner
might only get £8 or £9 for matching 6 balls !
Before you panic,
the chances of this happening in your lifetime are extremely remote, so
ignore any tabloid press scaremongering about it: the £10 guaranteed
prize is, for all intents and purposes, still in effect. Personally, I think
that part (e.g. £40m) of the massively under-utilised Super Draw
reserve fund should have been put aside for this contingency, so that all
the 3-match winners would get £10 and the remaining categories could
also be paid reasonable amounts.
- What about lottery ball and machine trivia ?
A lottery ball weighs 80g, has the number printed 16 times on it (8 times
across the ball equator and 4 times at either end) and is 2 inches in diameter.
There are 10 sets of balls (with further sets standing by as reserves),
but only 2 sets are taken to the draw itself. A person
from the National Weights & Measures Laboratory at Teddington inspects the ball
sets once a month, which includes bounce testing (i.e. dropping from a fixed
height to see if it bounces OK), weighing and measuring. Occasionally,
a ball set is sent off to the manufacturers, Electroversal, for comparison
purposes if a new set is to be ordered due to damage or inconsistencies.
Much of this paragraph is courtesy of Alan Dedicoat, the "voice of the balls".
There are 5 lottery machines: Arthur,
Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin and Galahad,
although Camelot incorrectly labelled
the Guinevere machine Merlin instead for the
first draw. Two machines are taken to the
draw location, whilst a third remains "close by" in case both machines at
the draw location break down. The third machine rotates occasionally so that
each machine gets a chance at being picked and all of this explains why only
2 envelopes are available to be chosen from when the machine is picked on the
afternoon of the draw.
- So what do you think is wrong with the lottery ?
Have you got 3 years to spare ? Actually, despite the UK media trying to lambast
Camelot at every opportunity, they haven't done a bad job. Their central computer
system has only had minimal downtime (eagerly reported by the UK media of
course) and no-one seems to have got away with fiddling the system
(e.g. forgery attempts have been easily detected). Having said this,
these problems remain:
- The total lack of advertising of the lottery subscription service. Virtually
no-one I've talked to knows about it - most of the public thinks you can't buy
more than 16 draws' worth of tickets in advance.
- The restrictions of the subscription service. Only being allowed to choose
1 or 2 sets of six numbers, only for 26, 52 or 104 draws, only from a UK
address and only with a UK cheque (not even a credit card !) are pretty nasty
restrictions on subscriptions.
- The restriction of the number of rollovers to 3. US state lotteries have
unrestricted rollovers and hence can build up to quite enormous amounts ($100m
or so is not uncommon).
- Rollover prize money is only allocated to the next draw's jackpot prize.
I reckon it should be spread across all the variable prize categories
(the same spread should also apply to Super Draws).
- The percentage splits for the categories is far too biased (52% !) towards
the jackpot. They should probably be split 4 ways (25% each after the 3 match
fixed prizes have been deducted).
- Some sort of formal apology and possible re-negotiation of their contact -
Camelot clearly deliberately over-estimated the start-up costs and under-
estimated the ticket sales in order to come out with a huge profit right from
the first year of their 7-year contract.