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The UK's National Lottery started in 1994 and the flagship draw kept the same name until 2002, when it was rebranded as Lotto. It has undergone multiple changes in more recent years, including the introduction of the Lotto Raffle in 2013, and an increase in the number of balls in the main draw in 2015. However, the basic ways to win a cash prize have remained the same throughout, from matching three main draw balls up to matching all six to win the jackpot.

The original Saturday draw was joined by a midweek Wednesday draw in 1997, and ticket sales for the UK's most popular lottery game close from 7:30pm GMT until 9pm GMT on both of those nights so the draw can be made. If you want to take part in a Lotto draw, you’ll need to buy your tickets before 7:30pm GMT; a Lotto ticket costs £2.

If you have a burning question about the workings of the Lotto game, check out the FAQ section at the bottom of this page!

Lotto Number Generator

Number of Lines

How to Play

Entering Lotto is easy, as all you need to do is choose six numbers from a set of 1-59. The draw itself chooses six balls along with a seventh bonus ball from the remainder of the same pot.

Prizes start from a free Lucky Dip ticket for matching two main draw balls, with cash prizes for matching three or more balls and a jackpot for matching all six. The bonus ball is only a factor if you match five of the main draw balls, in which case matching the bonus ball as well significantly boosts your winnings.

Why to Play

With overall odds of better than 1 in 10, Lotto offers a good chance of winning something in any given draw. However, it is worth remembering that the lowest prize is not a cash payout, but a free entry into an upcoming draw when you match any two main draw balls.

With rules that are easy to understand and a generous jackpot Rolldown Mechanic, it's easy to see why for many people Lotto is still the obvious first choice when choosing to buy a lottery ticket.

Supplementary Games

The change of rules in 2013 introduced the Lotto Raffle, and also took the price of a standard Lotto line to £2. This later became the Millionaire Raffle, but this was replaced in November 2018 with larger, fixed-cash prizes.

The UK National Lottery also operates several other lotteries at any one time, notably the Thunderball draw and games like Lotto HotPicks, although these are separate games rather than supplementary to the Lotto draw itself.

Prizes and Odds of Winning

Lotto is unusual in that the lowest prize is not a cash payout at all, but instead offers a free Lucky Dip ticket for an upcoming draw - either the very next draw on the calendar, or if you wish, you can choose to skip a draw. So, if you usually only play on a Saturday and don't want your free entry to be in the Wednesday draw, you have the option skip it.

The prizes include a fixed £30 payout for matching three balls – higher cash prizes are also fixed, while the jackpot is based on a percentage of the total ticket sales.

Lotto jackpots can roll over just five times before they must be won. Camelot uses a rolldown mechanic, which means that if it is not won after the fifth draw by a player matching all six numbers, it will be shared across all prize tiers based on fixed percentages.

The switch from 49 to 59 balls in the main Lotto draw dramatically lengthened the odds of winning the jackpot, which were previously 1 in 13,983,816 - taking them from about 14 million to one, to the current 45 million to one.

The introduction of the free Lucky Dip ticket for matching two balls is also factored into the official overall odds of winning a prize, although there is no cash payout for doing so. Based on this, the overall odds of any win on Lotto are about 1 in 9.3, while the odds of winning the Lotto Raffle prize depend on how many people have bought tickets.

Match Prize* Odds
6 Jackpot (est.) 1 in 45,057,474
5 + Bonus Ball £1 Million 1 in 7,509,579
5 £1,750 1 in 144,415
4 £140 1 in 2,180
3 £30 1 in 97
2 Free Lucky Dip 1 in 10.3

*Apart from the jackpot, all prizes are fixed.

Payment Options

UK Lotto prizes are paid as a lump sum, and winners usually do not receive a large amount of nationwide publicity - you have the option to remain anonymous if you wish. Very large jackpots logically attract more attention, as do prizes that go unclaimed for a long period of time.

If you want to see which lottery games allow their players to claim prizes anonymously and which don’t, take a look at the comparison cards on the Games page.

The deadline for any prize claim is normally 180 days and any unclaimed amounts at the end of that time are forfeited.

Prizes over £50,000 must be claimed in person and will be paid by bank transfer, direct credit, or by cheque, at the discretion of lottery operators Camelot.

History

The UK Lotto draw dates back to 1994 when the National Lottery launched, and has been the flagship game of the UK Lottery ever since, along with being the most popular lottery game in the UK. Originally, players had to choose six numbers from 1-49 and match all six for a jackpot payout, with a seventh bonus ball drawn from the same pot that boosts the prize for matching five numbers. In October 2013, the original ticket price of £1 was doubled and the Lotto Raffle - later to become the Millionaire Raffle - was introduced as well.

In October 2015, the game changed again, with the main draw now including the numbers 1-59, and a new consolation prize of a free ticket for matching two main numbers. This means the standard £2 ticket price now includes a chance of about 1 in 9.2 to win any prize on the main draw, and jackpot odds of about 1 in 45 million.

In November 2018, Camelot made more changes to the game. They introduced new, bigger fixed-cash prizes but removed the Millionaire Raffle. At this time, they also increased the base jackpots from £1.8 million to £2 million (Wednesdays) and from £3.1 million to £3.8 million (Saturdays).

The introduction of the jackpot rolldown mechanic also meant that once the jackpot had rolled over for the fifth and final time, and if no one matched all six winning numbers, it would be shared across all prize tiers based on fixed percentages.

Where to Play

Lotto tickets are sold in participating retailers throughout the UK, and can also be bought online through the operator’s mobile application. Players can designate their chosen six numbers for the main draw, or buy a Lucky Dip, which randomly assigns the six numbers.

You can also buy UK Lotto tickets online via lottery courier services, where a representative will go to a store in the UK and buy a physical ticket for you, even if you live elsewhere. This is an option even for UK residents while travelling abroad, as buying a lottery ticket directly online while overseas can invalidate the ticket, whereas using a courier service to make the purchase in person on your behalf does not.

Where the Money Goes

The National Lottery Good Causes fund is a selection of community projects and other worthy recipients who are awarded lottery money in the form of grants, either to cover their running costs or to fund specific projects and initiatives.

National Lottery profits also contribute to specific causes with national significance, such as protecting and restoring sites of historic or artistic value, or staging major cultural and sporting events like the Olympics.

FAQs

Which numbers should I play?

Every ball has an equal chance of being drawn, but it's worth including numbers from 32-59 on your ticket if choosing your numbers manually. This is because many people tend to choose birthdays as significant numbers, meaning you're more likely to share your prize with more other winners if it includes numbers 1-31 and especially numbers 1-12.

Are there any numbers I should definitely pick?

If you want to maximise your chances of being the only winner, focus on the numbers 50-59. Many long-term players of Lotto will have kept the same numbers since the old format of the game, when the top number in the draw was 49, so by tending towards the newer balls in the draw, you can avoid sharing any winnings with those people.

Do I pay any tax on my winnings?

Under UK law you should not have to pay any direct deductions on your winnings, which means prizes are tax free for UK residents. If you are playing via lottery courier from overseas, any local tax laws in your own jurisdiction may still apply to your prize.

Is there a minimum jackpot?

The minimum jackpot for Lotto is approximately £2 million.

Is there a maximum jackpot?

Yes, there is. If the jackpot reaches £22 million or more, it will rollover one final time. In the following draw, if there are no jackpot winners, it will be shared among all tickets that match five numbers and the bonus ball. If nobody does so, the money rolls down to the next prize division, and so on.

If you’re curious to see how other lottery jackpots operate, check out the Games page.

What was the largest Lotto jackpot ever won?

Two winners shared a record £66 million jackpot in January 2016.

Still got questions? Visit Lotto Broker’s main FAQs page for other popular lottery queries (and their answers).