National Lottery shake-up pays off as Lotto jackpot hits record £46.5 million after chances of winning reduced

The big prize probably only came about because the National Lottery made you less likely to win it

Andrew Griffin
Friday 01 January 2016 17:29 GMT
After trying to claim their winnings, but were told by Lotto operator Camelot that there was no record of their transaction
After trying to claim their winnings, but were told by Lotto operator Camelot that there was no record of their transaction

The National Lottery could be about to give away its biggest ever jackpot — and it’s all because it made people much less likely to win.

The Lotto jackpot this weekend could reach an estimated £46.5 million, smashing through the previous record. But the huge prize is a result of a shake-up in the game that some say was designed to lead to big jackpots and headlines.

Mid-way through last year, the National Lottery opted to change the number of balls in the game from 49 to 59.

That change dropped the chance of winning the jackpot from one in 14 million to one in 45 million. Many said at the time that the change was designed precisely to generate such big jackpots — even though the chances of actually winning them is much less.

The current biggest Lotto jackpot won was in 1995 when work colleagues Mark Gardiner and Paul Maddison, from Hastings, shared £22.5 million. The biggest individual winner is Iris Jeffrey, from Belfast, who won £20.1 million in 2004.

But the record may go unbroken - once the Lotto jackpot reaches or exceeds £50 million, the jackpot money - if it remains not won - will roll into the next draw when it must be won.

If no ticket matches all six numbers then the jackpot prize is shared between winners in the next tier where there is at least one winner.

Some 65 people have won £1 million or more on the Lotto since the introduction of new Millionaire Raffle in October, which guarantees at least one millionaire per draw.

A National Lottery spokesman said: "2015 has seen a record 341 millionaires made up until December 15.

"Every Lotto draw is guaranteed to make another millionaire with the Lotto Millionaire Raffle, and a whopping 65 have been made by Lotto since October alone, so Saturday will see our annual record pushed even higher."

Last year 341 millionaires shared £1.47 billion between them, beating the previous high of 335 in 2013.

National Lottery changes: Lucky number 59?

Since the National Lottery began in 1994 players have shared more than £57 billion in prizes. It has also raised £34 billion for various projects, handing out more than 450,000 individual grants.

According to the Sunday Times Rich List, a single person taking the entire jackpot would see their winnings eclipse the riches of former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who is worth an estimated £40 million.

Their new-found wealth would put them in a similar financial league to some of the country's richest celebrities, including singer Adele, who is worth around £50 million, and tennis star Andy Murray, who has about £48 million.

Additional reporting by agencies

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