UK National Lottery History

UK's first National Lottery

The UK's first National Lottery was Believe it or not, way back in 1567. It eventually died out, then resurrected as an annual event between c. 1750 and 1826. See the advertisement issued in 1567 by Queen Elizabeth I here archived at The British Library. It also has the full transcript of the advertisement.

Ever since then, it's not been possible to buy a Lottery ticket here in the UK until the launch of the current UK Lottery on Monday 14th November 1994. Why ? Well, a lot of people blame the soccer pools companies for putting pressure to preserve their status as the only way of winning more than a million pounds in this country.


It's absolute craziness that we were denied a National Lottery in the UK for 168 years because of this. Even Liechtenstein had one ! Lotto Luck . Liechtenstein did have about 5 actually and their Equinox bi-annual draw was comparable to the Spanish El Gordo (The Fat One) at around €2.45 Billion Euros! That's pretty good for a country 4 miles wide and 16 miles long!

7 companies tendered bids for the UK lottery License

7 companies tendered bids for the UK lottery license:

Camelot Group plc (£6,844m) - LotCo (£6,078m) - Games for Good Causes plc (£6,000m) - The Enterprise Lottery Co Ltd. (£5,769m) - GBLC plc (£5,519m) - UK Lotteries Ltd. (£5,247m-£5,667m) - The Lottery (RT) Ltd. (£4,482m-£6,627m)

Lottery License Awarded

On 25th May 1994, the Director General of the National Lottery (aka OFLOT) awarded the license (which runs until Sunday 30th September 2001) to the Camelot Group plc because they promised to return the highest amount to the National Lottery Distribution Fund. Camelot began as a consortium of the following shareholders:

Cadbury's Schweppes plc (Cadbury now demergered to Cadbury PLC):

  1. Consultancy services covering marketing, consumer trends and retail developments

De La Rue plc:

  1. Supply of consumables and Instants tickets including consultancy services.

GTech Corporation:

  1. Supply of Instants-only terminals.
  2. Warranty for on-line and Instants terminals.
  3. Supply of software.
  4. General consultancy.
  5. Supply of on-line terminal kits to International Computers Limited. 

International Computers Limited:

  1. Assembly of on-line terminals.
  2. Retailer training.
  3. Terminal maintenance.

Racal Electronics plc:

  1. Network communications and maintenance (X25 and VSAT networks).

On Wednesday 1st April 1998, Camelot shareholders announced that they are buying out GTech's 22.5% stake in the consortium for £51 million. This leaves Cadbury Schweppes, De La Rue and Racal with a 26.67% holding each and ICL now have 20%.

This makes the UK National Lottery unique amongst European national lotteries, as it is a private company rather than state run. Some 30,350 outlets have National Lottery terminals installed (6,500 more have Instants terminals) and the plan is to have totals of 35,500 and 16,500 terminals respectively by the end of 1996. Note that Camelot will be penalized £1m a day if they fall behind their proposed terminal installation schedule.

Over the 7-year license period, Camelot expects to give £10 billion to the National Lottery Distribution Fund, £4 billion to the Government in lottery duty and over £15 billion in prizes. Camelot uses Saatchi & Saatchi as their advertising agency and Harrison Crowley as their regional public relations consultants.

The terminals scan a play slip containing 7 boards (between 1 and 7 boards can be played per play slip, although there were only 5 boards per play slip prior to Sunday 17th March 1996) and register any vertical strokes through 6 of the 49 numbers on each board. If the customer confirms this is OK, a ticket is printed (including a printed checksum of course) containing your sets of 6 numbers, the draw date range that the numbers apply to and the total cost of the ticket.

It is possible to buy up to 16 draws' worth of numbers at once on the one play slip. (Assuming you want to play the same sets of 6 numbers for each of the 2 draws per week of course) You don't have to keep going back to the store for each draw. The maximum cost of a single ticket is therefore £112 (£1 per board per draw, 7 boards played and 8 sets of 2 draws per week paid for in advance) and the minimum is, of course, £1.

Important: Fill in your name and address in the form on the back of your ticket as soon as you have bought it. This stops people stealing it and claiming your prize. The tiny instructions on the back of the ticket don't make this clear - they imply that you only need to fill it in after you know you've won. Since the lottery terminals only record the numbers and not WHO bought the ticket, an empty form on the ticket reverse makes it like a cashier's cheque. ANYONE can claim your prize if they have your unfilled-in ticket. (They just fill in their name and address instead and you don't have a leg to stand on!)

If you are part of a managed Syndicate or online syndicate the numbers will kept by the syndicate manager or stored in a database with the online company with your details. It is up to you to make sure that any syndicates you join are legal and above board.

Where the money goes:

  1. 45p is returned in prizes for that draw.
  2. 28p is added to the National Lottery Distribution Fund, which is a pool of money allocated to
  3. arts, sports and charities that bid for it.
  4. 12p given to the UK government in Lottery Tax (i.e. it goes to Customs & Excise betting duty).
  5. 5p is kept by Camelot Group plc for running costs and profit.
  6. 5p is kept by the retailer similarly.
  7. 5p is reserved for future Super Draws and Instant Win scratchcard games.

More Updates coming soon,

Go To Play UK Lotto from National Lottery History