Would-be National Lottery millionaires can no longer count on at least a pounds 10 consolation prize if they pick three correct numbers.
Camelot, the lottery organiser, said yesterday that winners who got pounds 10 under the old system will have to share money in the prize fund for those with three winning numbers and could end up with less than the former minimum of a tenner.
Peter Davis, director of the Office of the National Lottery (Oflot) asked Camelot to make clear its position in the event that the number of players with three winning numbers - "match three winners" - exceeded the amount of money in the fund for pounds 10 prizes.
According to Oflot: "Camelot has changed the rules so that in such unlikely circumstances the prize fund will be equally divided between all winning tickets."
The change will come into effect from 17 March.
A spokeswoman for the National Lottery said it is extremely unlikely that the new rules will reduce payouts to winners with three numbers.
"It would only happen if an extremely high number of people - around 3 million - picked three winning numbers. The highest ever is 1.6 million," the spokeswoman added.
"If there is not enough in the prize fund at that level the amount given out in prizes might be slightly lower but it would be equally divided up between match three winners. I can't stress enough how unlikely it is, the odds are very remote." However, no one at Camelot had calculated precisely what the odds were.
A spokesman for Oflot said the change was a "tweaking" of the rules rather than a fundamental change: "Basically it is because people are not selecting their numbers randomly. At the moment if 65 million ticket holders were all to chose three winning numbers, the National Lottery is under a contractual obligation to give them a pounds 10 prize even if there is not enough money in the prize fund. The rules have had to be changed to reflect that. It is nothing to get hot under the collar about. The likelihood is extremely remote: you and I are more likely to bump into Elvis Presley on the moon."
But bookmaker William Hill said it was "astonishing" Camelot was allowed to change the rules to avoid losing money. A spokesman said: "It is astonishing that it is now prepared to refuse to pay out if it looks like losing money - particularly when it already pays out at well below the true odds."Reuse content