History of the Lottery in the UK

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Like almost all countries around the world, the United Kingdom is home to a variety of great lottery games. From internationally played draws to ones that are more popular locally, there is certainly something for everyone.

However, like with any other country that has a lottery, there is a distinct way in which the lottery came to be. In this article, we will discover the history of the lottery in the UK. We will also discover why this history has helped make lotteries such as UK Lotto so famous.

The First Lottery

Historically, it is agreed that the first-ever lottery in the UK began in 1566—certainly long before any lottery we may know of today was even thought of.

The lottery was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I and was to be started to raise funds for charitable efforts throughout the UK. As a start, 400,000 tickets (or “lots”) were sold for the price of 10 shillings each (around £116.66 in today’s economy).

Because this price per lot was equal to around 16 days’ worth of wages, the lottery battled to gain traction—even after the jackpot was announced. And the jackpot was certainly worth dreaming of winning.

The jackpot amount was scheduled to be paid using cash, tapestries and other prizes. The total value of the jackpot, however, would be equal to £5,000 (around £1.16 million today). Of this total worth, only £3,000 (or £700,049 today) would be paid in cash.

Eventually, in 1567, after trying for a year to sell the lots for the lottery, Sir John Spencer advertised the draw and included incentives for people to purchase lottery tickets. One of these incentives was indemnity from arrest for any crime committed aside from murder, piracy, treason or a felony.

Eventually, in 1569—three years after the lottery was commissioned—the first draw took place. Sadly, the lottery died out shortly after this.

Tried and Failed Attempts of Early Lottery

After the failure of the first lottery, not much else happened in terms of lottery in the UK until 1694. At this time, the state again introduced a new lottery. In addition to this new state-run lottery, a law was passed in 1698 that made all lotteries not operated by the state illegal.

Not much is known about this lottery other than the fact that it ran for over 250 years and eventually came to an end in 1826. It was in this year that the English government ruled to abolish the state lottery. The final draw was held within the same year.

Nothing further happened until 1934 when UK law changed to allow small lotteries to operate—as long as they were regulated. This law was further expanded on again in 1956 and 1976. However, no lotteries of note appeared to make use of the change in the law.

The Dawn of the UK National Lottery

After a number of years without any lottery, the UK finally introduced a new state-run lottery in 1993. This lottery was to be run under government license and would be regulated by the Gambling Commission in the country.

The operations of the lottery were opened for public tender, and the private operator Camelot Group was awarded the license in 1994.

Wasting no time at all, Camelot organized what is today known as the UK Lotto and held the first draw on 19 November 1994. This was the start of what is today one of the most well-known lotteries in the world.

In 1998, a new game called Vernons Easy Play was launched. It was meant to emulate football pools. However, the game did not catch on and few players ever purchased tickets. The draw was eventually cancelled in 1999—just a year later.

In the same year that Vernons Easy Play ended, Camelot launched another new lottery draw. This new draw, titled Thunderball, held its first draw on 12 June 1999. This draw quickly grew in popularity and helped boost lottery sales.

Unfortunately, by 2001, both lottery games began to suffer from a lack of sales. After being awarded the license to operate the lottery again, Camelot Group decided to try to change things.

With this in mind, in 2002 the National Lottery underwent a massive rebranding to try and rekindle players’ love for lotto. This clearly worked, as the lottery again began enjoying massive sales as people tried to make their dreams a reality through a big win.

Part of this rebranding was the introduction of another new draw. First known as Lottery Extra, Lotto Extra began in November 2002 as an add-on to the main Lotto draw. This draw helped boost sales and keep the lottery sales steady.

Bolstered by the success of Lotto Extra, another lottery was introduced on 22 September 2003. This lottery, called Daily Play, was started to offer a daily chance at winning up to £30,000. However, this was not enough for Camelot.

In 2004, the lottery introduced yet another new game. This lottery was the first pan-European game available in the country and was titled EuroMillions. The first draw was held in Paris on 8 October 2004.

All lottery games in the group appeared to be operating normally until 2006. Six years into its existence, the National Lottery announced the cancellation of Lotto Extra. Instead, a new draw called Dream Number would be launched.

Dream Number was playable as an add-on to the main UK Lotto draw or independently and quickly became popular throughout the country. It, and the other available draws, seemed to ensure lottery ticket sales remained constant until 2007.

In 2007, Camelot was again awarded the contract to operate the lottery in the UK. Holding steady, the group stopped introducing new games for a while.

However, in 2011, the National Lottery announced the cancellation of the Daily Play draw and the Dream Number Draw. In place of both lotteries would be a new game called Lotto Plus 5.

This draw was launched to take place five days of the week—Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. The game seemed relatively popular until changes to the main Lotto game made more players opt to play that instead. Due to falling sales, Lotto Plus 5 was cancelled in October 2013.

The UK National Lottery Today

From 2013 till the present, Camelot has done a fantastic job at running the great lotteries available from the National Lottery. As it stands, UK Lotto, EuroMillions and Thunderball have grown into massive lotteries that are popular around the world—thanks to the best lottery sites making them playable online.

Because of all this, it is clear that the UK Lottery has grown beyond what Queen Elizabeth I could have ever dreamed of back in 1566.

So, if you would like to be a part of a lottery that has been 455 years in the making, you can’t go wrong with anything offered by The National Lottery.