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About the National Lottery

The UK National Lottery was launched on 14 November 1994 and the first draw took place on 19 November. Since then, the National Lottery has become an institution within the UK, raising over £35 billion for good causes and paying out over £59 billion in prizes.

National Lottery funding contributed almost £2.2 billion towards the costs of staging the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London. 

National Lottery games consist of draw-based games such as Lotto and EuroMillions, scratchcards with prices ranging between £1 to £10, and online interactive instant win games, which can range from 25p to £10. There are a number of ways you can play the National Lottery:

  • at one of the National Lottery retailers throughout the UK marked by the crossed fingers logo, of which there are approximately 45,000
  • online, using a mobile, tablet or desktop at www.national-lottery.co.uk, via the National Lottery app or via Pingit.

Where does the money go? 

The precise breakdown of where the money goes depends on the actual level of sales, the types of game being sold and the period of the licence that has been reached. The average breakdown for every £1 of ticket sales in 2015/16 was (totalling 99p due to rounding in each category):

  • 53p paid to winners in prizes
  • 25p given to good causes
  • 12p to the government in lottery duty
  • 4p paid to National Lottery retailers on tickets sold
  • 5p retained by the operator to meet costs and returns to shareholders. 

The total number of National Lottery grants awarded to good causes stands at over 450,000. There is a searchable database of every grant given out since the Lottery began on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) website

Who makes sure the National Lottery is run properly? 

Four main parties contribute to the running of the UK National Lottery. They are:

  • Government - Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) 
  • Regulator - Gambling Commission
  • Operator  - currently Camelot
  • Distributing bodies - eg Big Lottery Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund. 

To apply for a lottery grant visit the lottery funding website or call the National Lottery Funding Hotline on 0845 275 0000 (calls cost 7p per minute plus your service provider's access charges). We do not have any responsibility for the distribution of lottery funds.

History of the National Lottery 

1 November 2014

National Lottery celebrates its 20th anniversary

1 October 2013

New Lotto launched with more prizes, raffles and £2 ticket

1 October 2013

National Lottery Commission and Gambling Commission officially merge

4 July 2012

The start of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

6 March 2012

Camelot’s licence to run the National Lottery extended by four years in return for additional 8,000 terminals

1 January 2012

National Lottery Commission relocates to Birmingham

14 October 2010

Government confirms merger of the National Lottery Commission and the Gambling Commission

15 April 2010

£500 million raised for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

24 November 2009

The 15th Anniversary of the National Lottery

1 February 2009

The third licence comes into force, for a period of 10 years

31 January 2009

The second licence ends

28 November 2008

Sales of designated Olympic Lottery games reaches half way towards the target of £750 million

31 August 2007

NLC finalises National Lottery Licence with Camelot Group plc

7 August 2007

Preferred bidder Announced for third National Lottery Licence

9 February 2007

Two bids received for third lottery Licence

29 June 2006

Bidding begins for 3rd Lottery Licence

29 June 2006

Publication of Final Invitation to Apply (ITA) and Draft Licence

15 July 2006

First Dream Number Draw

28 April 2006

Publication of the Draft Invitation to Apply (ITA) and Draft Licence

8 November 2005

Publication of the Statement of Main Principles for the third Licence competition

6 July 2005

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announces decision to award the 2012 Olympic Games to London

27 January 2005

The National Lottery Commission publishes its consultation on the third Licence competition, A Lottery for the Future

25 November 2004

National Lottery Bill introduced to the House of Commons

16 November 2004

First National Lottery Day

13 February 2004

Launch of EuroMillions

22 September 2003

Launch of Daily Play

24 February 2003

Launch of Interactive Instant Win Games

23 October 2002

The first midweek Thunderball draw took place

10 July 2002

Launch of Lotto HotPicks

27 January 2002

Start of the second seven-year licence

26 October 2001

The interim licence took effect

19 December 2000

Camelot awarded the second seven-year licence

13 November 2000

Launch of Lotto Extra

30 November 1999

Final Invitation to Apply (ITA) and revised draft Licence published

29 July 1999

Statement of Main Principles and timeframe for second Licence competition announced

1 April 1999

The National Lottery Commission succeeded The Office of the National Lottery (OFLOT). Mark Harris appointed as the Commission’s Chief Executive

1 January 1999

National Lottery Commissioners announced

5 February 1997

Launch of the midweek draw

21 March 1995

Launch of Scratchcards

19 November 1994

First National Lottery draw took place

Who owns Camelot? 

On 25 March 2010 the five shareholders in Camelot (Cadbury Schweppes, Royal Mail Enterprises, De La Rue, Fujitsu Services and Thales Electronics) announced that they had agreed to sell their shareholdings to the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (OTPP). This agreement was subject to regulatory approval from the National Lottery Commission whose consent was required before the sale could be completed. 

The National Lottery Commission carried out an assessment of the terms of the purchase of shares in Camelot Group Limited by OTPP and gave consent to the sale. 

There were two elements to the assessment. Firstly the National Lottery Commission scrutinised the proposals from OTPP and secured necessary clarifications and improvements to the purchaser’s proposals. Secondly the National Lottery Commission completed checks into the fitness and propriety of the purchaser, to ensure that the public interest in the National Lottery is safeguarded. 

Consequently, Camelot’s share sale to the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan was given regulatory approval.

Are other lotteries such as the Health Lottery and People's Postcode Lottery part of the National Lottery?

No they are not, other lotteries are totally separate even though some operate across the whole of the country. There is only one National Lottery and that is run under licence (and under a totally separate Act of Parliament) by Camelot with the primary aim of raising as much money as possible for good causes. Unlike society lotteries, the National Lottery is not limited to the prizes it can offer or the proceeds it can make, whereas under limits set by Parliament, society lotteries must operate within maximum prize and proceeds limits.