lottery: the cost of winning pounds 15,656,366

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Should we or shouldn't we have wagered nearly pounds 14m of your hard- earned money on the lottery last week? With the benefit of hindsight, we may now calculate whether it would have been a good idea to buy a complete set of tickets, covering every possible combination of numbers.

The initial outlay on tickets would be pounds 13,983,816, which would have guaranteed us a share of the jackpot - a quarter share, since there would now be four winners instead of just three. But our large investment would ensure an even higher jackpot. Of the total ticket sales, 45 per cent goes to the prize fund. When the pounds 10 fixed prizes have been deducted, 52 per cent of the remainder is added to the jackpot, 16 per cent to the five-balls-plus-bonus prizes, 10 per cent to the five numbers correct, and 22 per cent to the four-numbers prizes.

After doing the sums we end up with a jackpot of pounds 43,997,357 divided among four, which gives us pounds 10,999,339. We also win six prizes of pounds 104,436 for five-plus-bonus, 252 prizes of pounds 2,168 (five numbers), 13,545 of pounds 75 (four numbers) and a staggering 246,820 tenners. All of which adds up to pounds 15,656,366. At first glance, this looks like a clear profit of pounds 1,672,550, but that's before we take into account the organisational costs. And co-ordinating the purchase of 13,983,816 lottery tickets takes a good deal of organising.

For a start, there's the job of filling out the tickets and having them processed at lottery terminals. Even if you allow only 10 seconds a ticket, that adds up to almost 40,000 man-hours of work. We could print them out by computer, but it's safer by hand - to avoid arousing Camelot's suspicion.

Then there's the time taken travelling between newsagents and the time needed, at the end of it all, to pick up the prizes. At a conservative estimate, it will be 80,000 man-hours in all.

We'd better budget, therefore, for a staff of 2,000 people, spanning the country, each using all the lottery outlets in his area. They will have to be vetted for discretion and reliability, then trained and briefed at a one-day meeting.

We shall advertise for staff in accountancy journals and local newspapers, and invite the 5,000 best-qualified applicants for interview and psychometric testing. The 2,000 finally chosen will each be supplied with print-outs of the numbers to be selected, two ball-point pens, and an attache case with combination lock for collecting the prizes. Travel between lottery outlets will be by public transport in the purchasing phase, by taxi for prize collection.

The Lottery Heist Budget:

Recruitment:

Design 4,500

Advertising: 50,000

Evaluation: 375,000

Expenses: 125,000

Salaries:

Co-ordinators: 50,000

80,000 man-hrs 640,000

Travel:

Bus & train 60,000

Taxis 100,000

Bank interest:

pounds 14m for 5 days 11,462

Training costs:

Hire of hall 1,500

Delegates' exps 60,000

Refreshments 40,000

Office costs:

Office rental 1,600

Equipment hire 1,000

Programming 1,000

Phone costs 20,000

Postage 25,000

600 reams paper 3,000

Ball-point pens 1,000

Floppy disks 80

Paper-clips 8

Prize collection:

Attache cases 100,000

Security escorts 1,200

Couriers 1,200

Total......................pounds 1,672,550

Prize surplus: pounds 1,672,550

Net profit: pounds zero.

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