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Friday, 12 November, 1999, 17:44 GMT
How to win the Lottery
It couldn't be you: Lottery odds are stacked against lone punters
The National Lottery is five years old. BBC News Online looks at tactics for winning, the dangers if you do win, the controversy over funding and the rollercoaster fortunes of operators Camelot.

Forget crystal ball gazing, tarot and tea leaves, hitting the jackpot in the National Lottery is possible - with a lot of money and bit of patience.

National Lottery - five years on
How to win the lottery
Winning loses its gloss
The rise, fall and rise of Camelot
Whose ‘good causes’ are they anyway?
The chances of winning the jackpot with a £1 ticket are 14 million to one.

That means that if you spend £1 a week on the Lottery, you may just win the jackpot in 270,000 years time.

But by then Earth will probably be boiled to a frazzle by the sun and taking that holiday of a lifetime in the Caribbean will not hold so much appeal.

So forget your £1 ticket, think big - very big.

Mathematician Bill Hartston has worked out that an astute consortium buying £100,000 of tickets for every rollover could be in with a chance of making a "fair profit".

Mr Hartston said: "The only way you can beat the odds is to bet against what other people are betting their money on.

"That way you will not have to share your money around."

'Tax on hope'

Pick a million or so such combinations and bet on all of them every time a rollover arrives.

You can then expect one major jackpot, unshared, every 14 times you enter, which, with rollovers about one every 12 draws, will be more than once every two years, with a bit of luck.

For the ordinary punter though, the lottery is a "tax on hope and innumeracy".

So why do people bother?

Apparently, it's all to do with "perceived utility" which means the more money you can win, the more likely you are to spend your £1 on a ticket.

It explains why contestants on ITV's Who Wants to be a Millionaire often stop at £64,000. Unlike the Lottery, they have too much to lose.

And people also bother because it's addictive.

Lucky number: 38
Mr Hartston said: "It's pernicious because it's so beautifully designed to be addictive. People are hooked because of the way they feel they came really close by getting two numbers one week.

"But if the first two are the same, you are more likely to have no numbers right in the four consecutive weeks than you are winning £10."

If you must play, the latest advice is to stick with number 38.

It has popped up 74 times, more than any other number since the Lottery was launched almost five years ago.

The top ten numbers, in order of the times they have appeared, are: 38, 25, 44, 45, 28, 2, 9, 14, 47 and 43. The bottom ten numbers, in order of the fewest appearances, are: 39, 19, 13, 37, 16, 6, 18, 35, 21 and 34.

But a better bet is to place your money on the horses.

Mr Hartston said: "Everybody knows that the Lottery is a mug's game. You buy a ticket for £1, of which only 50p is returned in prizes.

"Almost any other form of gambling will supply a better return on investment."

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12 Nov 99 |  UK
Winning loses its gloss
02 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
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