The lure of the first-ever treble jackpot pay-out this week is expected to persuade millions of occasional players to try their luck.
On average something approaching 30 million people play the lottery more or less regularly, and over 80 per cent of the adult population have played at some time or another. It is not hard to imagine that a record number will be taking part this evening.
The average stake could also rise from pounds 2 or pounds 3 to pounds 3 or pounds 4 a head, taking the stake money to pounds 90m or more. It could easily be pounds 100m if the hype is to be believed, generating a record sum for good causes.
After the pounds 10 prizes have been paid out, 52 per cent of the remaining prize pool is added to the jackpot, which is expected to rise to at least pounds 35m, maybe even pounds 40m - even if the stories about the Australian-based International Lotto Fund and its Romanian-born master-mind's plan to invest pounds 14m to cover every possible combination of numbers turns out to be pure fiction. Church leaders can denounce the siren call of the lottery with all their might, but Camelot's own warnings that players should buy their tickets early this week were calculated to inspire even an bigger demand, and certainly got sales off to a very brisk start as soon as shops re- opened last Tuesday.
Perhaps the best hope of preventing lottery fever creating real hardship this week is that addicts will reduce their spending on instant scratch cards, currently running at around pounds 26m a week, in order to finance their dream of mega-riches.
Since it started on 19 November 1994 the lottery has now created more than 140 lucky jackpot winners, (as well as, some might say, a lucky lottery regulator).
But Lady Luck continues to defy the statisticians.
After 59 weekly draws each number should have come up a little under nine times including bonus balls. In fact number five has now turned up as a winning number 15 times, including four times as the bonus ball.
Numbers 16 and 28 have come up 13 times, 22 has been drawn 12 times and numbers 30, 44 and 48 have all won 11 times.
At the other end of the scale, number 39 came up last week for the only the second time and that after a losing sequence of 53 weeks, just in time to forestall the lottery equivalent of a steward's enquiry. It is no surprise to some that the next unluckiest number is 13 with only three winning balls plus one bonus, while 37 has only come up five times, and numbers nine, 12, 24 and 34 have won only six times.
There are also some long losing sequences. Each number should come up every eight weeks or so on average, but it is 32 weeks since 13 came up, and 25 weeks since 31 dropped into the winning slot, while number 38 has not won for 19 weeks now, and 22, which has won 12 times, last did so 18 weeks ago. It is 16 weeks since 41 was a winner, and 15 weeks since 24 appeared.
The last two weeks produced no jackpot winners, perhaps because on both occasions three of the six outright winning balls were numbered 40 and over.
The previous week saw several winners but only one winning ticket, which may well reflect the fact that two consecutive numbers, seven and eight came up.
If there is a lesson to be learned it is that if you choose consecutive numbers or several numbers closely bunched together you may not win very often, but when you do, you should win big. That seems to be the basis behind the tactics of the lottery syndicates like the International Lotto Fund.