What Is the Best Value UK Lottery & Which Have The Best Odds & Highest Jackpots?

lottery winner throwing money silhouetteThe United Kingdom has a wide number of different lotteries in operation for citizens to involve themselves in. Throughout several decades, lotteries have existed within the country, harking back to a 1934 Act, which legalised small lotteries. This went on to be further liberalised in 1956 and 1976, but the largest lottery that has come to light within the UK is the state-franchised National Lottery. This was set up in 1993 by the government of John Major, and the first draw took place in November of 1994.

It was several years later that a second lottery was announced, known as the Thunderball. That went into action in 1999, and since then, more and more lotteries have been set up and spread throughout the country with growing popularity. Games have come and gone within the past couple of decades as well, and around nine proper lotteries are still operational today in the UK. But are you as likely to win one as the other? Or do you stand more chance of being successful by playing a specific lottery over another?

What Lotteries Available in the United Kingdom?

national lottery

Following the success of the National Lottery in the 1990's other games were released, starting with Thunderball in 1999 and EuroMillions in 2004.  This then lead to launch of linked games, such as Hotpicks and most recently a new game called Set For Life.

Other community lotteries also began to launch in the mid-2000's, starting with the Postcode Lottery in 2005 and the Health Lottery in 2011.

With so many different lottery games and formats these days it can be hard to compare them.  Below we look at each major game in turn and looking at prizes, odds, jackpots and value.  Click on any link below to jump to the game description.

Lotto

This is the longest-running lottery in the UK, being the one that started out in 1994. Players buy their tickets with a choice of six different numbers between 1 and 59. Alternatively, players can opt for a Lucky Dip ticket, which randomly selects six numbers for them, and the entry fee in either case is £2 per set of numbers chosen.

Draws for this lottery are conducted twice each week – once on Wednesday and once on Saturday. The game was originally called The National Lottery, although it was renamed simply to Lotto as part of an update in 2002 when it was discovered that ticket sales had decreased.

In the draw for this, six numbered balls are drawn from a set of 59, while an additional Bonus Ball is drawn, which is relevant only to those players who have managed to match five numbers already. If no player manages to match all six numbers, then the jackpot total is added to that of the next Lotto draw, also known as a rollover.

Lotto Prizes and Odds

While tickets started out at £1 for the Lotto game, they doubled to £2 in October of 2013, and the prizes were also restructured alongside. The announcement actually came with news that large bonuses were to be set aside for management pay, which drew a mass of criticism towards the Lotto game. Yet, the arrival of that new version of Lotto meant that bigger jackpots would be present.

Changes were undertaken in 2015, 2016 and 2018, which led to the product that is in operation today. The rules surrounding gameplay now dictate that each prize level of the Lotto is a fixed amount per winner, which is similar to the Thunderball game. Prior to this time, all prize levels from matching four numbers and above were determined by the number of winners at each level and the total ticket sales. Rollovers were also limited to five at a maximum at this time, and if nobody matches six main numbers after that fifth rollover, then the jackpot total is shared between all cash prize winners.

Here is a rundown of prizes and odds of winning the Lotto at each level:

LevelAverage Prize Per WinnerOdds (Per Entry)
6 numbers matched £5,000,000 45,057,474 / 1
5 numbers + bonus ball £1,000,000 7,509,578 / 1
5 numbers £1,750 144,414 / 1
4 numbers £140 2,179 / 1
3 numbers £30 95 / 1
2 numbers £2 9.3 / 1

Lotto Hotpicks

This lottery utilises the main Lotto draw for the winning numbers, but it’s actually a different game. Players select both the numbers and the number of draw balls they would like to try and match, with a maximum of five being selectable. However, they must match all those numbers to be considered a winner. The entry fee for this game is £1 per board.

Hotpicks Prizes and Odds

Many people prefer Hotpicks as if you match the same number of numbers in the lotto you get much lower prizes, for example, matching five numbers in the main lotto would only win around a thousand pounds but five matches in hotpicks could bag you £350k. Of course the compromise is you don't win a prize if you don't match all numbers but if all you are interested in is the jackpot this represents better value.

MatchPrizeOdds (Per Entry)
1 Pick 1 Match £6 10 / 1
2 Pick 2 Match £60 115 / 1
3 Pick 3 Match £800 1,626 / 1
4 Pick 4 Match £13,000 30,342 / 1
5 Pick 5 Match £350,000 834,398 / 1

Thunderball

The second longest-running lottery game in the UK, the Thunderball jackpot requires its players to select five main numbers between 1 and 39 first. Then, you need to choose a separate number, which is known as the Thunderball, and this is a number between 1 and 14. Again, entry into the Thunderball lottery is set at £1 per line. Prizes are won in this game by matching the Thunderball number or at least three of the main numbers alone. Naturally, the more numbers that a player matches, the bigger the prize pay-out.

Thunderball draws are held on Saturdays and Wednesdays, like the standard Lotto game. A Tuesday draw was also added to these days in January of 2018.

Thunderball Prizes and Odds

The top prize of the Thunderball lottery now stands at £500,000, and this can be won by matching all five of the main numbers as well as the Thunderball. Yet, additional prizes are available for matching the Thunderball or at least three of the main numbers. Draws for the Thunderball occur four times per week on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Prior to May 2010, the rules surrounding the Thunderball were that draws of numbers between 1 to 34 were undertaken. There wasn’t any prize for matching the Thunderball alone at that point, either and the top prize was £250,000. With the increasing of numbers to 39 and an additional Friday draw included, the chance of winning the top prizes more than halved, although the chance of winning anything on Thunderball itself more than doubled. The odds and pay-outs at current are as follows:

MatchPrizeOdds of Winning
Thunderball Only £3 1 in 29
1 Number + Thunderball £5 1 in 35
2 Numbers + Thunderball £10 1 in 135
3 Numbers £10 1 in 111
3 Numbers + Thunderball £20 1 in 1,437
4 Numbers £100 1 in 3,647
4 Numbers + Thunderball £250 1 in 47,415
5 Numbers £5,000 1 in 620,046
5 Numbers + Thunderball £500,000 1 in 8,060,598

Set for Life

This is one of the more recent additions to the collection of lotteries in the United Kingdom. A top prize of £10,000 per month for thirty years is available through playing this. Each line has a charge of £1.50 and draws occur on Monday and Thursday each week. Players are required to select five main numbers from 1 to 47 as well as a single Life Ball from 1 to 10.

Set for Life Prizes and Odds

A top prize of £10,000 per month for thirty years, which equates to £3,600,000 in total, is available when playing the Set for Life lottery game. Entry is £1.50 and players can follow draws each Monday and Thursday at 20:00. The odds of winning can be found below:

MatchPrizeOdds of Winning
5 Numbers + Life Ball £10,000 every month for 30 years 1 in 15,339,390
5 Numbers £10,000 every month for one year 1 in 1,704,377
4 Numbers + Life Ball £250 1 in 73,045
4 Numbers £50 1 in 8,116
3 Numbers + Life Ball £30 1 in 1,782
3 Numbers £20 1 in 198
2 Numbers + Life Ball £10 1 in 134
2 Numbers £5 1 in 15

EuroMillions

The EuroMillions lottery was announced and launched in 2004, with the first draw taking place in Paris, France. Initially, the draw included players from France, Spain and the UK. Today, lotteries from Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Switzerland are also active in the EuroMillions draw. These lottery draws take place twice a week – on Tuesday and Friday. Entries into this lottery are £2.50 per board.

EuroMillions Prizes and Odds

To win the jackpot of the EuroMillions, players are required to match seven numbers, with draws for this being held every Tuesday and Friday at 20:45 CET in Paris. A standard EuroMillions ticket costs £2.50 per line played now, although it originally cost £1.50. Players select five main numbers from 1 to 50 and two lucky star numbers from a pool of 12 numbers. All prizes are tax-free, except in Switzerland, Spain and Portugal since 2013. These are paid out as a lump sum. The odds of winning and prize structure are a little more complex where the EuroMillions draw is concerned.

Main NumbersLucky StarsOdds of Win% of Prize FundExpected Win
2 0 1 in 22 16.59% £3
2 1 1 in 49 10.3% £5
1 2 1 in 188 3.27% £6
3 0 1 in 314 2.7% £8
3 1 1 in 706 1.45% £9
2 2 1 in 985 1.3% £12
4 0 1 in 13,811 0.26% £33
3 2 1 in 14,125 0.37% £48
4 1 1 in 31,075 0.35% £101
4 2 1 in 621,503 0.19% £1,094
5 0 1 in 3,107,515 0.61% £17,555
5 1 1 in 6,991,908 2.61% £169,001
5 2 1 in 139,838,160 50% or 42% Jackpot

EuroMillions Hot Picks

As with the standard Lotto game, the EuroMillions has its own Hot Picks available to enter, too. One of five prizes are available for players to win, from £10 up to a maximum of £1 million. The rules behind it pretty much echo what those of the standard Hot Picks game.

EuroMillions Hotpicks Prizes and Odds

The EuroMillions is very much the same as hotpicks although it is worth pointing out that for lower prizes it is slightly better value.  For one number picked and matched the EuroMillions version and Lotto version are both 10/1 yet the former pays out £10 for a win (£1.50 ticket cost) and the latter £6 (£1 ticket cost).  Factoring in ticket cost the Lotto pays out £6 for every £1 entered and EuroMillions pays £6.66.

For two numbers picked and matched the odds for the Lotto (115/1) and EuroMillions (123/1) are similar yet the Lotto Hotpicks pays a prize of £60 vs £100 for Euromillions.  Per pound entered, as the EuroMillions tickets cost more, that works out at £60 for the Lotto and £66.66 for EuroMillions.

As the picks increase the odds for the EuroMillions Hotpicks increases above the Lotto Hotpicks but then the prizes are much higher, overall this is a better value game.

MatchPrizeOdds (Per Entry)
1 Pick 1 Match £10 10 / 1
2 Pick 2 Match £100 123 / 1
3 Pick 3 Match £1,500 1,960 / 1
4 Pick 4 Match £30,000 46,060 / 1
5 Pick 5 Match £1,000,000 2,118,760 / 1

The Health Lottery

Operating on behalf of 12 local society lotteries across Great Britain, The Health Lottery was launched in 2011. It runs five weekly draws from Tuesday to Saturday. Each week, a different regional community interest company receives the funds from this, with a 20% share of ticket sale proceeds going to local causes regarding healthcare. Tickets are charged at £1 per entry, there are 5 balls and a bonus ball drawn from 50 balls numbered 1-50.

So as to circumvent the requirements of the UK Gambling Act, The Health Lottery is not structured as a national lottery, though. Instead, it undertakes the 12 societal lotteries description, with each one representing at least one local authority within England, Scotland and Wales. Each of these are licensed by the UK Gambling Commission.

Health Lottery Prizes and Odds

The Health Lottery does not have a straight forward prize structure given there are five different draws and jackpot sizes can vary depending on the number of tickets purchased.  The jackpot is either £25,000 or 10% of ticket sales if this amount is greater.  

What we can tell you is the average overall odds of winning any prize is 9.7 /1.

MatchPrizeOdds (Per Entry)
5 Numbers £25,000 or 10% Sales 2,118,760 / 1
4 Numbers + Bonus £10,000 423,752 / 1
4 Numbers £250 9,631 / 1
3 Numbers + Bonus £50 4,815 / 1
3 Numbers £10 224 / 1
2 Numbers + Bonus £5 224 / 1
2 Numbers 1 Free Entry 16 / 1
1 Number + Bonus 1 Free Entry 31 / 1

People’s Postcode Lottery

This lottery is a subscription-based game, which is run by the Postcode Lottery Limited, regulated by the Gambling Commission of the UK. The format of this was actually introduced by a Dutch company – Novamedia BV, which launched its own postcode lottery in the Netherlands in 1989. The People’s Postcode Lottery started in the north of England in 2005, at the time being a pilot scheme. Following that successful launch, it expanded into the Scottish lands in 2007 before entering Wales in 2010.

Players sign up to play this lottery and pay a monthly subscription for it in advance, either by direct debit, debit card or PayPal. A total of 10 draws take place each month and prizes are handed out on a daily basis. A player’s tickets are based on their playing postcode, which in most cases is represented by their home postcode. This represents a group of houses that utilise that same postcode, and if more than one resident in that specific postal code has tickets, all players within collect prizes.

A minimum of 32% of the ticket price from the players’ £10 monthly subscriptions is handed out to various trusts, and these then fund charities and community projects across not only Great Britain, but internationally as well. Around £330 million has been donated already.

Postcode Lottery Prizes and Odds

The Postcode lottery is the most difficult to define in terms of odds owning to the fact it works on a subscription model and there are various draws with different prizes that take place at different frequencies.

The odds shown below are approximate because the chances of winning depends on how many postcodes are playing, which of course varies.  There are also other factors that influence specific draws:

For the big £3M monthly draw you can win up to a maximum of £400,000 but this is shared with other people who play in your postcode, so depending on how many other people are playing the prize code you could win a lower amount.

For the other fixed prize draws you do not need to share the prize if you win but the odds still vary as these draws are conducted daily or weekly basis and as this is a monthly subscription model the true odds depend on the number of days in the month or the number of Saturdays and Sundays in a month.

Still, it is worth pointing out that for the main £3,000,000 draw you stand the chance to win £400,000 with rough odds of 1,080,000/1, which in jackpot terms makes it the best odds of all the lotteries.

DrawFrequencyApprox Odds
£3,000,000 Monthly (Max Prize £400k) 1,080,000 / 1
£30,000 Saturday & Sunday 135,000 / 1
£1,000 Daily 1,800 / 1
£20 Sundays 270 / 1
£10 Saturdays 270 / 1

Which Lottery is the Best Value?

lottery machine with balls insideIf you were to compare each of these lotteries, then it’s clear to see that the conventional lottery game with the best odds of winning the top prize is the Thunderball. Of course, it’s necessary to put those odds into some sort of perspective, prior to you rushing out and purchasing a Thunderball ticket. Considering that the odds of being struck by lightning in the UK is around 1 in 1,200,000, this really does put the odds of winning the Thunderball at 1 in 8,060,598 into perspective, right?

Yet, when you consider that The Health Lottery runs five days a week and tickets can be bought for £1, the odds for this jackpot being won are 1 in 2,000,000. The odds for winning any prize stand at 1 in 108, and it is for this reason that it stands out as being the easiest lottery to win a jackpot of for the least ticket money on average. Keep in mind though, that The Health Lottery has the smallest overall jackpot of £25,000 or 10% of ticket sales.

The postcode lottery is worth a mention too as it technically has the lowest odds for the jackpot prize although it is worth considering the big draw only takes place once a month, the prize is split so may not be £400k and it is a £10 subscription to enter.  Of course that subscription also means you get to enter all of the daily and weekly draws too for lower prizes and this is one reason it has become so popular.

If you’re looking at the easiest lottery to win any prize on, then you’re safer sticking with the aforementioned Thunderball or the EuroMillions draw.