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Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
How to run the ultimate lottery
Global lottery map
The next lottery licence holder will be expected to raise even more money for good causes. How do lottery officials worldwide lure players? By BBC News Online's Megan Lane.

No matter whether you are in York or New York, a lottery ticket is more than just a scrap of paper.

For the price of a newspaper and a packet of chewing gum, you can buy a multi-million pound dream.

Worldwide sales 1999 ($US)
Europe: $62.3bn
North America: $42.8bn
Asia/Middle East: $16.6bn
Central and South America: $4.3bn
Australiasia: $2.2bn
Africa: $362m
La Fleur's figures
It is this dream the UK's incumbent licence holder, Camelot, and the group favoured by the lottery regulators for the next licence, the Sir Richard Branson-backed People's Lottery, want to sell to yet more Britons.

The National Lottery Commission wants the next operator to raise more for good causes than the 10bn expected from the current period.

That means selling more tickets, to more people.

John Haigh, a statistician at the University of Sussex who specialises in lotteries, says a sure-fire way to boost sales is to make the chance of winning even more remote.

"When extra money gets rolled over because no-one has a winning ticket, sales go up. People can see that it's free money from those who invested in the previous lottery," Dr Haigh says.

In May, New Yorkers flocked into neighbouring New Jersey to get a stake in the $350m Big Game jackpot - the biggest prize in US history. The odds of winning were one in 76 million.

The Big Game
The Big Game: Players outside the seven states drove miles to buy tickets
In the nine weeks it took the two winners to scoop the jackpot, lottery outlets in the seven states running the game sold some 565 million tickets, at a dollar a time.

In June, Californian lottery officials keen to boost flagging sales unveiled a revamped SuperLotto game, which made their lottery more like the popular Powerball and Big Game draws.

Officials changed the odds of winning from one in 18 million to one in 41 million by adding extra numbers. Under the new rules, players choose five numbers from 1 to 47 and one "mega" number from 1 to 27.

The world record for an overall jackpot was set last December at $1.2bn (750m) by Spain's El Gordo, meaning the Fat One.

But the Spanish lottery is also the world's easiest - it spreads the prize pool among thousands of winners, with a one in six chance of winning something.

Rival bids

Already 60% of the UK population plays the lottery, which has takings of 28bn since it started in November 1994.

The UK's big game
35,000 terminals
80m tickets sold a week
At least 11m scratch cards sold a week
28bn spent on tickets since lottery started in 1994
More than 13bn paid in prizes
Some 1,000 new millionaires
10bn raised for good causes
Funds projects from local sports clubs to Tate Modern
About 80 million tickets are sold each week - and a rollover draw typically sells at least another 50 million tickets.

The People's Lottery has pledged to raise 15bn for good causes in the next period, which runs from 2001 to 20008, and create 2,500 new millionaires.

Sir Richard plans to reinvigorate the lottery by lengthening the odds of the main game - six numbers from 53 compared to the existing six from 49. This will create more rollovers, and allow more money to be given in smaller prizes.

Camelot matched its rival's pledge for good causes. To shift more tickets, it wanted to sell over the internet, mobile phones and interactive television - which would require strict controls to ensure children could not purchase tickets.

Random selection

One way to boost the number of rollovers is to keep lucky dip ticket sales to a minimum, Dr Haigh says.

Dean Allen of Essex
Dean Allen, who picked up his 13.8m winnings in early August, bought a Porsche
In the UK, just 20% of tickets sold are lucky dips, compared to 60% in New Zealand, where rollovers are a far rarer event.

"Lucky dips are genuinely random, and more likely to cover all combinations.

"When the National Lottery started in 1994, GTech [the US lottery specialists then part of the Camelot consortium] advised not to have lucky dips at first.

"That meant players had to choose their own numbers, creating a sense of ownership. Then heaven forbid if they miss out on buying a ticket - what if 'their' numbers come up?"

Lucky dips did not go on sale in the UK until March 1996, almost a year and a half after the lottery started.

Whatever form the National Lottery takes in the future, one thing will remain the same: The winner's vow of "It won't change me" as they roar off in a flash new car.





See also:

10 May 00 | Americas
08 Jun 00 | UK
10 Jan 00 | e-cyclopedia
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