This week, in what it described as "exciting changes to the Lotto later this year", National Lottery organiser Camelot unveiled big changes to the twice-weekly Lotto draws.
Camelot gambles on £2 tickets
Currently, a Lotto ticket costs £1 to enter entry a single draw, either on Wednesday or Saturday. However, from September, Camelot is doubling the ticket price to £2 and substantially altering the Lotto's prize structure.
This is the first price increase since the Lotto was launched by Noel Edmonds on Saturday, 19 November 1994. In the 18 years of the Lotto's life, inflation (the rise in the cost of living) has increased by an average of 2.9% a year. Thus, £1 bought the same amount of goods in 1994 as £1.67 would today.
In effect, by increasing the Lotto ticket price by 100%, Camelot has given punters a massive, inflation-busting price rise. This caused a flood of protests by disgruntled players, with thousands posting on Twitter and Facebook that this 'rip-off' will stop them playing the UK's most popular flutter.
Clearly, this proposed price increase is aimed at making Camelot and its partners more money, but may backfire spectacularly, resulting in a 'Boycotto the Lotto' backlash.
In snap polls published by the ‘Daily Mail’ and the ‘Guardian’, eight people in 10 said they would quit playing the National Lottery. At the ‘Daily Mirror’, nine players in 10 said they would reject the new-look Lotto. Angry players also hit out at 'fat cat' wages at Camelot, whose chief executive, Dianne Thompson, earns £1 million a year plus a performance bonus.
Are players worse or better off?
While doubling the ticket price may lead to higher revenues for Camelot, this might well not double prize pots. Especially if some punters – especially pensioners and other low-income groups – stop playing or play less, only selecting one line of numbers, for example.
What's more, the overall payout ratio of the Lotto will be unchanged. It will stay at 50%, half of ticket sales.
Across all Camelot's games (the Lotto, EuroMillions and scratchcards), yearly bets exceed £6 billion. However, less than £3 billion of this is returned in prizes, while the remaining billions are shared among the good causes fund (28%), the taxman (12%), retailers (5%), Camelot and its partners.
In effect, the loss ratio for punters of 50% will be unchanged, so Lotto players as a whole will be no worse off come September. What are set to change are prize pots at all levels, particularly the lowest prizes and the jackpot.
Here's how the current National Lottery draw compares to the new Lotto arriving in September:
| Lotto changes
|| From September
| Ticket price
| Average Saturday jackpot
| Average Wednesday jackpot
| Average 5 numbers + bonus ball payout
| Average 5 numbers payout
| Average 4 numbers payout
| Guaranteed payout for 3 numbers
| Ticket raffle
|| 50 prizes of £20,000
|| New feature
As you can see, the lowest prize – for matching three numbers – is set to leap by 150% to £25 from £10. From September, matching four balls will get you a typical prize of £100, a rise of two-thirds (67%) from the current average payout of £60.
At the other end of the scale, the typical prize pot for Saturday jackpots will rise by almost a quarter (22%) to £5 million from £4.1 million at present. On Wednesdays, the jackpot fund will increase by almost a seventh (14%) to £2.5 million from the current £2.2 million.
To pay for these increases for the top and bottom prize levels, Camelot is gutting the mid-level prizes. Matching five numbers from September onwards will get you an average of £1,000, a drop of a third (33%) from the current payout of £1,500. Likewise, the average payout for matching five numbers and the bonus ball will be halved, falling 50% from £100,000 today to £50,000 from September.
In summary, while the two lowest prizes and the jackpot will be boosted in eight months' time, the mid-level prizes will be slashed. This makes the Lotto a less attractive bet for punters who match five numbers or five numbers and the bonus ball.
The same odds but different winners
For the record, here are odds of winning each Lotto prize, which will not change when the ticket price doubles to £2 in September:
| No. balls correctly picked
|| Odds of winning
| All six
|| 1 in 13,983,816
| Five plus bonus ball
|| 1 in 2,330,636
|| 1 in 55,492
|| 1 in 1,033
|| 1 in 57
| Any prize
|| 1 in 54
Again, the odds of playing the Lotto will not change in September, nor will the payout ratio of 50%. Therefore, despite the changes to the prize levels, the Lotto will remain a famously bad gamble!