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
Highest Jackpot £100,000
Odds of winning jackpot 1 in 2,118,760
Number of Games 5
Shown on

The Health Lottery is a lottery in Great Britain launched in October 2011 where players choose 5 different numbers from 1 through 50; at least 3 numbers must match in order to win a prize. It is operated by Northern and Shell[1] which owns numerous media outlets in the United Kingdom.


Players must be at least 16 years old. Tickets are sold only in the UK, except Northern Ireland. (Great Britain)


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.


At the beginning, 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]

On 9 Nov 2011, the Health Lottery announced that the Saturday night TV draw show would be extended in length to showcase where the good causes money raised is being spent, as from 12 November when it moved exclusively onto Channel 5. Natalie Cassidy took over as host from spring 2012.

To celebrate the first anniversary of the Health Lottery, a new Wednesday night draw[9] called "Win Wednesday" was launched, hosted by Jenny Powell. This draw started on 17 October 2012.

From January 2014, the draws were hosted by Anne Diamond[10] on Saturdays and 5 News weather presenter Sian Welby on Wednesdays.

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 Aug.[11][12] Turner was later dropped on 2 Oct, with Welby and the live draws restored, though in a shorter format.[13]



Players must choose 5 different numbers from 1 to 50, or can opt for their numbers to be selected randomly by machine (a 'Quick Pick'). The cost per play is £1.

The previous prize structure was as follows:

Matching numbers Prize
3 numbers £50
4 numbers £500
5 numbers £100,000

From the draw on 11 May 2013, there is the addition of a bonus ball number. The bonus number is drawn after the 5 main balls, and prizes can be won for matching 2, 3 or 4 main balls with the bonus ball. The new prize structure is:

Matching numbers Prize
2 numbers Free ticket*
2 numbers plus bonus £10
3 numbers £20
3 numbers plus bonus £50
4 numbers £250
4 numbers plus bonus £10,000
5 numbers Up to £100,000. (See below)

*Promotional prize

Top prize is 10% of ticket sales up to £100,000. Prize is shared if more than one match 5 winner.

Where the money goes[edit]

Breakdown of revenue
in operating costs, marketing and administration
20.3% to health related good causes
variable%‡ to winners


The game has been criticised for donating only 20.3% of the ticket price to good causes, compared with 28% donated by the National Lottery. Spokespersons for The Health Lottery argue that the game will grow the market.[14] 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,[15] which was reported to the Advertising Standards Authority, who found the issue to be outside their remit.[16] 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.[17]


Due to the requirements of the Gambling Act, the Health Lottery is not structured as a national lottery, but rather as 51 different society lotteries, each one representing at least one local authority area within England, Scotland and Wales. 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 good 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 good 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.[18]

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.[19]


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