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Changes to UK Lotto Game
November 1, 2018 - Latest update February 3, 2019
The UK Lotto game will undergo significant changes starting with the November 21, 2018 draw. There are three changes to the game - the prize structure, when a roll down draw occurs and the distribution of prizes for a roll down draw. Roll down draws are also referred to as "must win jackpot" draws.
The most significant change is the distribution of prizes for a roll down draw. Currently, when the jackpot is not won in a roll down, all the jackpot money is allocated to the second tier prize (match 5 plus bonus). With the new version of the game, the jackpot money is allocated to all prize categories with the bulk of the money going to the match 3 (74%) and match 4 (17%) prize categories. A total of 91% of the jackpot money is added to the 2nd and 3rd easiest prize categories to win. The easiest prize category is match 2 numbers for a free ticket.
If this was the only change to the game, it would be a huge advantage to players. Unfortunately, there is another significant change to the game. Currently, there is a roll down draw after about 10 to 11 rolls of the jackpot. With the new game, the roll down draw will always occur on the 5th roll of the jackpot. The roll down jackpot will be significantly smaller under the new rules; about C$23 million compared to C$41 million under the old rule. This will most likely result in a smaller payout (expected value). For the previous four UK Lotto roll down draws, the payout averaged 151%. Under the new game, the payout will be less, but most likely will still be above 100%.
So the bad news is smaller jackpots and payouts. But the good news may offset the bad news. The positive expected value will most likely be realized. Even though the payout averaged 151% under the old rules, it would require matching at least 5 numbers plus bonus to realize a profit. The odds of that per ticket are 1 in 7.5 million. Under the new rules, a profit may be realized by matching 4 numbers with odds of 1 in 2,180. If group plays for UK Lotto roll down draws are popular and a lot of tickets are purchased, then at least one 4 number match is likely. In the last roll down draw on October 3, 2018, the S groups had two tickets that matched 4 numbers.
Here is a bold prediction. For the first UK Lotto roll down draw, if the jackpot is not won, then the S groups, collectively, will turn a profit. That is, they will win more than they spend. An individual group may not profit, but adding what is won across all groups, will be more than what was spent.
Now why is this prediction being made for only the first UK Lotto roll down draw and not all roll down draws? The payout is dependent on sales. The higher the sales, the smaller is the resulting payout. Once players figure out how good a deal the UK Lotto roll down draws are, sales are likely to dramatically increase over time.
The third change to the game is the prize structure. The old game paid £25 for matching 3 numbers. This will change to £30. The match 4 and match 5 prizes were para mutual at approximately £100 and £1,000 respectively. Under the new rules, these prizes will be fixed at £140 and £1,750 respectively. The match 5 plus bonus prize will win £1 million; up from approximately £50,000. The extra prize money will come from eliminating the 21 raffle prizes (one prize at £1 million and twenty prizes of £20,000).
The number matrix (choose 6 numbers from a pool of 59) is staying the same along with the cost per ticket at £2.
In summary, the changes will be better for group plays for the first roll down draw and possibility the next couple. How well it plays out over time will depend mostly on the popularity of roll down draws among players.
January 17, 2019 Update
Since the UK Lotto game was changed with the November 21, 2018 draw, I started tracking ticket sales for each draw. Ticket sales is the most significant factor affecting the payout of a roll down draw. Under the old format, the payout was normally so high, even with extra large sales for a given draw, the payout would still be well over 100%. This may not be the case under the new format since the jackpots will be much smaller for the roll down draws.
While tracking ticket sales, I came across a very interesting pattern. Ticket sales are far more dependent on which day of the week the draw is held rather than the size of the jackpot. Draws on Saturdays have ticket sales close to double the sales for Wednesday draws. So if the Saturday jackpot is not won, despite the larger jackpot for the Wednesday draw, sales always go down.
Most lottery games, including Canada's Lotto 649 generally have higher sales on the Saturday draws but the difference is not nearly as dramatic as the UK Lotto game. For example, the January 5, 2019 UK Lotto draw had a jackpot of £7.8 million and sales of £23.8 million. The jackpot rolled to £9.4 million for the Wednesday draw, an increase of 20%, but sales for the Wednesday draw dropped by 35%.
This may be a European thing since the same pattern seems to hold true for the Euro Millions game. For example, the Friday, January 9, 2019 Euro Millions draw had a jackpot of €38 million and sales of €65 million. The jackpot increased by 25% for the following Tuesday draw but sales decreased by 23%.
And so, based on this new information, I have decided to change my prediction. In the above article, the following bold claim was made - "For the first UK Lotto roll down draw, if the jackpot is not won, then the S groups, collectively, will turn a profit."
There has only been one roll down draw since the implementation of the new game and the jackpot was won in that draw. But had the jackpot rolled down to the lower prize categories, the S groups probably would not have turned a profit because the draw was held on a Saturday.
Here is the new prediction. For the first UK Lotto roll down draw, if the jackpot is not won and the draw is held on a Wednesday, then the S groups, collectively, will turn a profit. To turn a profit, it will most likely require at least one ticket matching 4 numbers. To help make the prediction come true, multiple S groups will launch for UK Lotto roll down held on a Wednesday to ensure many tickets are bought. For Saturday draws, probably only one S group will launch.
February 3, 2019 Update
The first UK Lotto roll down draw in which the jackpot was not won was January 30, 2019. As predicted, since the draw occurred on a Wednesday, the S groups collectively won more than they spent - about 11% more.
The payout for the draw was 106%. The groups did better than that for two reasons. First, the groups had 20 tickets that matched 3 numbers and each ticket won £138. Based on the number of tickets purchased, we were expected to win with just under 19 tickets. And second, one ticket matched 4 numbers and won £724. The groups had a 83% chance of one ticket matching 4 numbers.
We also did well because the size of the match 3 prize was larger than expected. Since the winning numbers were high numbers, there were fewer tickets that matched 3 numbers than expected based on sales. There were a total of 88,347 match 3 winning tickets - 5% less than expected.
A similar outcome occurred with the match 4 prizes. There were a total of 3,767 match 4 winning tickets - 8% less than expected.
Could we have done even better? Well aside from the obvious answer - yes, if at least one ticket match 5, 5+B or 6 numbers - we could have done better if there was no match 5+B winning tickets. One ticket matched 5+B and won £1.4 million. Had there been no winning ticket for that prize category, the £1.4 million would have been divided among the match 3, match 4 and match 5 categories. The lottery company does not advertise their prize distribution formula and therefore it is not known how much bigger the prizes would have been. There have been 22 draws since the new UK Lotto games was launched and in 7 of those draws, there were no match 5+B winning tickets. So it is possible in one of the upcoming roll down draws, both the jackpot and the match 5+B prize money will be rolled down to the lower tier prizes.
But the most important reason the draw had a positive payout was the relatively low sales. So the plan going forward is: the next time a UK Lotto roll down draw occurs on a Wednesday, multiple groups will be launched again. But, if the roll down draw occurs on a Saturday, no new group will be launched.