A  treasure trove of lottery trivia to which we will keep adding.  If you have any lottery anecdotes or stories and would like to add to this feature, do get in touch!




The Roman emperors Nero and Augustus used lotteries to give away property and slaves during Saturnalian feasts and other entertainments. A Roman slave saw “It could be YOU” from a different angle!


European lotteries first appeared in 15th century Burgundy and Belgium with towns trying to raise money to fortify defences or aid the poor – not fleece them as some claim our lottery does.


The first lottery where tickets were sold and prizes were money was set up by the widow of the Flemish painter Jan Van Eyck in Bruges on February 1466.


In 1520 French King Francis 1 legalised lotteries for both private and public profit. Merchants made more profit from the sale of something especially valuable if they used lotteries. In 1530, La Lotto di Firenze in Florence became the first state run lottery.


In 1566, Elizabeth 1 authorised the first English lottery to pay for repairs to the harbours of Hastings, Romany, Hythe and Dover. There were 400,000 tickets with a top prize of the equivalent of about £10,000.


In 1612 the Virginia Company obtained permission from James 1 for a lottery to raise one hundred thousand pounds to finance the settlement of Jamestown in the New World. In 1627 a series of lotteries was licensed to raise money for the building of an aqueduct for London.


Lotteries were the only form of organised gambling available in both England and America in the 17th and 18th centuries and were intensively advertised by such promotions as torchlight processions in the streets.


Touts often bought tickets at less than the standard price for resale at big mark-ups. A side bet that a ticket would or would not be drawn in the regular lottery was popularised too – as our bookies do with the Irish lottery today. The state earned nothing from either practice – but dishonest private operators could


The abuses strengthened the case against lotteries, but before they were banned in 1826, they had financed the building of the British Museum and the repair of bridges, plus many projects in America, even supplying guns for the defence of Philadelphia. George Washington ran a lottery to build a road.


Several American universities were built with Lottery funds: Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, King’s College (now Columbia), William and Mary, Union and Brown.


By 1832, privately organised lotteries were very popular in America. The Boston Mercantile Journal reported that 420 had been held the previous year in eight states.


The most successful American lottery began in Louisiana in 1869 and soon had agents in every city. Total sales per month were $2,000,000 at its peak, generating prizes of up to $250,000. Twice-yearly prizes could go as high as $600,000.


In the 1930s, the Irish Hospitals’ Sweepstake began and a pattern was set for the highly organized lotteries of the 20th century. Yet in essence they were not very different from the state lotteries of Georgian England or 19th century Europe. The first truly National Lottery with weekly draws designed to raise money for the State was created in Italy after unification in 1863.




Do you agree with us that the lottery should be non-profit making? Camelot win the lottery every week in the UK.


They’ve got the right idea in Hong Kong. There, the Jockey Club have control of the racing world where bookies – as we know them – do not exist. The whole thing is non-profit making, so even if you lose a fortune at Sha Tin or Happy Valley, you are comforted by the knowledge that you have not made a bookie even richer.


The millions raised in profit goes to Hong Kong schools, hospitals and nurseries, so you can always say that instead of indulging in a night on the gee-gees, you been doing a bit of social work! The Jockey Club of Hong Kong provide a perfect model for the Lottery. If the Lottery was non-profit making, there would be more millions available for good causes.



You could be five times more likely to become Lottery millionaires if you live on the coast, according to Camelot figures.


In a two-year period, 40 winners scooped more than £135 million in seaside spots. It is the coast of Sussex that really has sands of gold with jackpots totalling £40 million.

The wave of money first hit Hastings when double-glazing bosses Mark Gardiner and Paul Maddison shared the biggest ever payout from a single ticket - £22.6 million. The West Sussex resort of Worthing was the luckiest spot with five jackpots totalling £13 million.

Granddad George Geveaux-Ross scooped more than £1.1 million, snooker fan John Myles won £3.75 million, a 20 year old bank clerk won £2.5 million, 15 pub regulars shared £3.6 million and chippies Brian and Karen Hopcroft won £2.6 million.


But the honour of luckiest town by the sea goes to the East coast port of Grimsby, where Mick and Jackie King (£14 million), Roy Gibney (£7.5 million), Bernie Finn (£3.1 million) and Eva Robinson (£839,254) all won jackpots within weeks of each other.


In Lancashire, Karl Crompton’s £10.6 million win in Blackpool was followed by a £2.2 million win by Ian Sharp in Morecambe. In Essex, tiny Westcliff-on-sea has two £2 million jackpot winners, Lee Hine and Doug Wood. On Tyneside, Stephen Bradley put Whitley Bay on the map with a £1 million win. In Yorkshire, Bridlington woman Paula Kinsey had a £1.4 million jackpot.


Another lucky spot in the early days of the lottery was Yorkshire.


Of the first 192 jackpot winners who went public with their good fortune, 27 came from that county. They banked over £54,635,000 - £10 million more than in Lancashire, the next luckiest county, where 15 winners shared £44.6 million. Tyne and Wear, with 15 winners and almost £39 million, came third. But Lincolnshire, with all those Grimsby jackpots, comes hard on the heels of its bigger neighbours, with 11 winners sharing £37.7 million.


The luckiest place in Southern Britain was Essex, where £36.6 million was shared between 14 winners. London, with less than half Yorkshire’s winnings at £24.7 million, came only eighth. It finished behind Cheshire, with £37 million, and Merseyside, £28.4 million, but just ahead of Leicestershire, with £23.2 million, and Sussex, £22.9 million. Bottom of the whole table came the Isle of Wight with just winner collecting £552,002.



Frieda Procida, an Illinois housewife, dropped her lottery ticket in a bakery. A policeman friend, Phillip Sylvester, picked it up and refused to surrender it. Under duress, Procida allowed Sylvester to keep the ticket, so long as he shared any winnings. The ticket won $6 million and Sylvester kept the lot.


In America, millionaires are being created at the rate of 2.5 a day through lottery jackpots. Bus Driver Haydn Davies tore up his four year old daughter Stacey’s “daft” numbers because he reckoned they were all too high. He then watched with rising horror as they were all drawn. His wife Cheryl screamed at him for an hour. She said, “we were gutted. Haydn just sat there and said: “I’m a bloody fool. In future, we’ll let Stacey pick.”


When seaman Jim Cohoon of Toronto won $250,000 in the lottery, he was seized by a fit of generosity and started to dish out $1,000 bills to passers-by. He also spent $50,000 on his shipmates. Within 11 weeks he had spent every cent, and because he had given up his job, ended up on the dole.


Clarence Austin waited until he was 77 before winning the West Virginia State Lottery. Such was his excitement, he literally died laughing. His wife Brenda commented that, “Winning the money made his day.” His friends agreed he was dead lucky and that he enjoyed having the last laugh.


Devon housewife Anne Morgan won £337,644. She suggested to her husband, “we could put a chandelier in the lounge and swing from it.” “The ceiling wouldn’t take it,” he replied.


Doris Barnett from Los Angeles thought she had netted the $2 million top prize in the state lottery – all she needed was the sixth ball on the wheel of fortune to match her sixth number. The wheel spun, the ball bounced – and fell into the right number. She was ecstatic. Three seconds later, the ball fell out. The lottery’s rules claimed it had to stay there for five seconds. Mrs Barnett handled it well. “I’ll be back” she told the organisers. She was. She sued the company for the prize money, and was awarded an extra $266,000 in damages for “emotional trauma”.


North London Italian Restaurant manager Mimo Mule missed a lottery fortune by 1 number because he picked his own age rather than his wife’s. Mimo, who had five of the six winners, chose 23 as the last number – his age when he wed. His bride Rosietan was 26 – right for the jackpot. He won £4,400 but as he said, “it could have been millions.”


In the hours before the draw for a jackpot of £22 million after the third rollover in the UK draw, tickets were sold at the rate of 50,000 a minute.


Unlucky Andy Caird switched his money from the pools to lottery and lost £800,000. Andy Caird missed his Pools Collector and so put the cash on the Lottery. His pools numbers came up. He would have won £800,000.


Kirk Godson of Portland, Oregon, believed that he had lost a winning lottery ticket worth $2 million. Such was his despair; he decided to lose his life as well. After his death, the state lottery announced that there were no winning tickets for that draw.


Jim Desantis, a factory foreman from California, played the state lottery for 65 weeks with the same set of numbers, winning a total of $3. On the 66th week, when he had neglected to enter, his numbers came up. He missed out on $5 million. “Suddenly,” he said, “I wanted to die”.


Freddie Johnson drove from Georgia to Florida to buy 50 lottery tickets in the sunshine state’s mega-lottery. He crashed on the way back and lay trapped for three days before rescue. “I feel lucky!” he exclaimed. But he didn’t win the lottery. And while he was away, his house had burned down.


A $16 million Florida jackpot went to Gail and Richard Neubuger just after their first wedding anniversary. They never reached their second. Richard, who had picked the numbers, scarpered – but Gail managed to hang on to half the money.


When waiter Vincente Queiroz scooped $400,000 in Brazil and went on TV, a viewer shopped him to the police! For he was a killer who had shot his wife 17 years before. Money bought him a smart lawyer – but it couldn’t stop him being jailed for life.


Woody and Lois Nelson knew they had a winning ticket worth $8 million. Except that a lottery employee had punched in one of their numbers wrongly. The shock killed Woody, 73. He had a massive heart attack.


The winner of the first ever Grand National in 1839 was called “Lottery”.


A Wisconsin schoolteacher won $74 million in the Powerball Lottery in 1993 to become the world’s biggest winner. The record is now over $119 million.


A man who won $2 million in the Ohio lottery struck lucky again and won $13 million in the Florida Lotto.


A Brazilian mother of seven burned a winning $38,400 ticket because her minister said she would go to hell. Her husband left home.


An Indian couple that spent $150 on tickets ate rat poison in 1992 after failing to win in the state lottery.