Camelot, the national lottery operator, has warned it will shut down ticket terminals if there is any evidence of an international syndicate trying to seize this week's record pounds 40m jackpot.
An Australian syndicate of 2,500 players, led by a Romanian mathematics expert, is said to be eyeing Britain's lottery, after successfully winning first prizes and more than pounds 25m in 14 lotteries world-wide.
But the syndicate would need to purchase tickets worth pounds 14m to cover all possible combinations of numbers. It would also have to take a significant risk on how many individual players will come up with the winning combination, and share a stake in the prize.
A spokeswoman for Camelot said that the company was confident that a major syndicate would not succeed, but it was on standby for any abnormalities in sales for this week's lottery, which are expected to reach record levels because of the frenzy surrounding the jackpot.
"If there was any evidence of a commercial syndicate in action we would close down the terminal straight away, or instruct the retailer not to sell any more tickets. It would stick out like a sore thumb," the spokeswoman said. "But the risk of sharing the prize, and the logistics of buying and filling out 14 million tickets by hand, make it difficult if not impossible for any attempt of this kind."
Stefan Mandel, the head of the Australian syndicate which recently won pounds 15m in the Virginian lottery in the United States, has perfected his system over 34 years. He first used his mathematical knowledge to crack the Romanian lottery in 1964 and escape from its communist regime to Australia.
Mr Mandel set up the International Lotto Fund in Melbourne when he was working as an insurance salesman, by persuading customers, including many doctors, lawyers and accountants, to join. The syndicate now employs 30 accountants, and operates from a large office. Last year Mr Mandel said of the British lottery: "Not worth the effort unless the prize fund gets really big."
However, even if Mr Mandel did pull off a British lottery sting, he and his shareholders risk not being able to collect their prize. Camelot is not liable to pay out the jackpot on a ticket that it knows or suspects has been resold or otherwise transferred by the way of trade.
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