The Health Lottery

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The Health Lottery
Region Great Britain
First draw October 2011
Operator Northern and Shell
Regulated By Gambling Commission
Odds of winning jackpot 1 in 2,118,760
Number of Games 5
Shown on

The Health Lottery is a lottery that operates on behalf of 12 local society lotteries across Great Britain. It was launched in October 2011 and runs 5 weekly draws on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Each week a different Community Interest Company raises the funds for their respective area, with 20% of ticket sales being awarded to local health-related causes. It is operated by Northern and Shell which owns numerous media outlets in the United Kingdom[1].


The origins of the Health Lottery predate the National Lottery, to the failed National Health Service Lottery which had an abortive launch in 1988, before being declared illegal. The assets of the NHS Lottery were purchased in 2007 by Altala Group Ltd, a company run by Ian Milligan, a former employee of Camelot Group, the operators of the UK National Lottery.[2] Altala went into administration in 2009, shortly before it was due to be granted its gambling licence, and was purchased by Health Lottery Ltd.[3] After winning the licence, the Health Lottery was sold in February 2011 to Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell group.[4] The Health Lottery launched in September 2011.


From launch, draws for the Health Lottery were broadcast live on the ITV network during an advertisement break of The X Factor, paid for by Northern and Shell, and shortly after on Channel 5. Draws are currently broadcast at around 9.55pm on Channel 5.[5] It was initially planned to be hosted by Eamonn Holmes[6] but as Holmes was employed by Sky News, he was dropped due to a possible conflict of interest.[7] Melinda Messenger was confirmed as the host on 5 October 2011.[8]

To celebrate the first anniversary of the Health Lottery, a new Wednesday night draw called "Win Wednesday" was launched.[9]

On 5 August 2015, it was announced that the Health Lottery would be extended to five nights a week, with previous National Lottery presenter Anthea Turner taking over as host of the new-look draws from 13 August.[10]


The game has been criticised for donating only 20.3% of the ticket price to causes, compared with 28% donated by the National Lottery. Spokespersons for The Health Lottery argue that the game will grow the market.[11] Some attention was also given to the possibility that favourable coverage of the lottery in Desmond's Daily Express and the Daily Star amounted to disguised advertising,[12] which was reported to the Advertising Standards Authority, who found the issue to be outside their remit.[13] The Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced in October 2011 that the Gambling Commission would investigate the legality of the Health Lottery, after questions were raised about the way the lottery was being run and the cost to smaller lotteries nationwide.[14]


To circumvent the requirements of the Gambling Act, the Health Lottery is not structured as a national lottery, but rather as 12 different society lotteries, each one representing at least one local authority area within England, Scotland and Wales[15]. Each society lottery is licensed by the Gambling Commission and operates as an individual Community Interest Company, or CIC. Different CICs take turns in participating in a weekly draw so each week different CICs are represented and every region gets a share of the pot. Money is then donated to support health-related causes within their respective local areas. The Health Lottery ELM Ltd operates as an external lottery manager to oversee the society lotteries. The ELM charges a management fee of 0.5p in every pound, which provides the profit for the lottery owners. The allocation of funds to causes raised by the Health Lottery is determined by the relevant CICs and their partner charity, the People’s Health Trust, and not by The Health Lottery ELM Ltd.[16]

In 2010 this complicated structure was judged by the Gambling Commission regulatory panel to be "close to the line in respect of section 99 of the [Gambling] Act" and that while the structure was "capable of being compliant with the Act" it was "finely balanced". Concern was expressed that the individual lotteries were not to be combined into one de facto national lottery, as to do so would be a breach of the Act.[17]


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