Belfast Telegraph

Lotto: changing lives for 20 years

The National Lottery will mark two decades of creating millionaires and supporting good causes when its draw machine and brightly coloured balls whir into life today.

More than £32 billion has been raised for charity since the first draw, on November 19 1994, while in excess of 3,700 ticket-holders have been made into millionaires during its 20-year history.

Organisers say more than £53 billion has been handed out in prizes and to good causes since it began.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Since its launch, the National Lottery has changed lives across the length and breadth of the UK."

He added: "It's made its mark on our landscape in the shape of the Angel of the North, the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and the Millennium Stadium.

"And, having raised over £32 billion for good-cause projects, it's making a difference in our communities too - preserving treasured heritage sites, supporting the arts, propelling our sports stars to even greater heights and making a real difference to hundreds of thousands of smaller grassroots projects."

The first draw was started by 18-year-old Deborah Walsh, who competed against 48 others for the honour in an hour-long show presented by Noel Edmonds.

Today marks 20 years to the day since that event, although a National Lottery spokesman said 20 new millionaires will be created in a special draw on Saturday.

The spokesman said: "Thanks to National Lottery players, many life-changing projects have been made possible across the length and breadth of the country over the last 20 years.

"Think of your last visit to a museum, art gallery, the theatre or sports centre - the chances are it has had National Lottery money.

"As well as transforming local communities and supporting thousands of charities, the National Lottery has also made a difference to individuals across the UK."

There are four Lotto draw machines and eight sets of balls.

The most drawn ball in the competition's history is number 38, while 13 has made the fewest appearances.

The largest individual Lotto winner was Iris Jeffrey, from Belfast, who scooped a staggering £20.1 million in July 2004.

According to organisers, around 70% of the UK's adult population regularly buy a ticket or enter a sweepstake.

More than £750 million has been donated to help regenerate public parks, while charity cash has also been ploughed into supporting British-made films.

Unusual purchases by jackpot winners included a football club, a narrow boat, and "a pair of new hips for the wife", while one winner bought the property next door and turned it into a pub.

Andy Duncan, chief executive of National Lottery operator Camelot, said: " Having raised over £32 billion for these projects and paid out more than £53 billion in prize money, the National Lottery is, without doubt, truly life-changing."

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