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The lost £3m lottery ticket that cost a marriage: Just one of the compelling human stories of greed, jealousy, kindness and jaw-dropping spending as the curtain falls on Camelot’s three decades of making millionaires

  • Camelot has fought off all manner of takeovers at the helm of National Lottery
  • But this week it emerged that its roller-coaster tenure is set to come to an end
  • Multinational lorry operator Allwyn has clinched victory for the lucrative licence
  • The likely takeover marks the end of a colourful and, on occasion, turbulent era 
  • We look at the highs and lows as the game earned its place in British culture 

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Camelot has fought off all manner of takeover challenges in nearly three decades at the helm of the National Lottery, including two bids by billionaire Sir Richard Branson.

This week, however, it emerged that — barring a successful judicial review — its roller-coaster tenure is set to come to an end. A battle for the lucrative licence has ended with multinational lottery operator Allwyn clinching victory.

The company’s UK wing has already announced its intention to breathe fresh air into the draw when it takes over in 2024, cutting ticket prices to £1 and hosting two Saturday night draws rather than one.

The likely takeover marks the end of a colourful and, on occasion, turbulent era during which the game earned its place as a mainstay in British culture. Here, we take a look at its highs and lows . . .

Callie Rogers was only 16 and working as a £3.60-an-hour supermarket checkout girl in her native Cockermouth, Cumbria, when in 2003 she became an overnight millionaire after scooping £1.8 million

Colin and Christine Weir, from Largs in Ayrshire, were happy to share news of their £161 million win with the media. Sadly, their 38-year marriage broke down in 2019 and Colin passed away a few months later at the age of 71

Colin and Christine Weir, from Largs in Ayrshire, were happy to share news of their £161 million win with the media. Sadly, their 38-year marriage broke down in 2019 and Colin passed away a few months later at the age of 71

It’s all in the numbers

£83 billion Total prize money to date

£45 billion Amount given to 660,000 good causes throughout the UK

£171,120,673 Biggest single jackpot prize to date, won in October 2019

£5,874,778 First Lottery prize total in November 1994

45,057,474 to 1 Current odds of scooping jackpot

1,000 The number of Olympic and Paralympic medals won by British athletes since funding for Team GB began in 1997

48 The number selected least by players

12 Out of the biggest 20 winners have remained anonymous 

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BIG WINNERS

After a relatively modest £5,874,778 prize for the first ever National Lottery draw on November 19, 1994 (the winning numbers were 30, 3, 5, 44, 14, 22, and the prize was shared by seven winners), the jackpot crept up exponentially over the years and a stonking £83 billion has been won in total.

In October 2019, one winner scooped a breathtaking £170,221,000, which became the single biggest prize to date.

That mega-winner chose to remain anonymous but, eight years earlier, in 2011, Colin and Christine Weir, from Largs in Ayrshire, were happy to share news of their £161 million win with the media, promising they would have ‘so much fun’ with it.

Sadly, their 38-year marriage broke down in 2019 and Colin passed away a few months later at the age of 71. He had burned through half his share of their fortune at a rate of £100,000 a week.

The most recent big win — and ninth biggest overall — came in June last year, when a single anonymous winner scooped a £111,540,000 prize. Overall, Camelot says it has created 6,300 millionaires.

THE HIGHS

In 2017, 40-year-old Bev Middleton, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, won £14,509,500 — a life-changing sum for a single mother of four children, two of them autistic, who was struggling on benefits.

In 2017, Lorraine Smith and Paula Barraclough, two best friends from Sunderland, scooped a £15 million lottery win as a result of an informal arrangement where they took it in turns to buy tickets occasionally

In 2017, Lorraine Smith and Paula Barraclough, two best friends from Sunderland, scooped a £15 million lottery win as a result of an informal arrangement where they took it in turns to buy tickets occasionally

Susan Crossland (pictured with her husband Michael), from Mirfield, West Yorkshire, scooped £1.2 million playing the same numbers as her late father

Susan Crossland (pictured with her husband Michael), from Mirfield, West Yorkshire, scooped £1.2 million playing the same numbers as her late father

Yachts, pools…and dog biscuits 

Sarah Cockings, from Whitley Bay, was 21 when she won £3 million in 2005. She celebrated by buying breast enhancements for herself and her two sisters, Emma and Alex.

Deana Sampson, from Sheffield, had £3.60 in her bank account when she won £5.4 million in 1996. She bought her parents a bungalow as well an £800,000 yacht as a 40th birthday present to herself.

Roy Gibney, from Grimsby, was so proud of his £7.5 million win in 1998 that he had his winning numbers — 12, 13, 21, 23, 33, 36 — tiled into the bottom of the swimming pool at his mansion (pictured below).

Tracy Field, from Essex, had been working three jobs when she won £2.5 million in 2008. The single mother, who had cancer, went to Tesco in her pyjamas and bought Bonio dog biscuits on the night she won, as she ‘couldn’t think of what else to buy’.

Cheryl Brudenell, from County Durham, won £916,915 in 1997. She says this let her ‘indulge’ in her ‘passion’ for Robbie Williams. She has seen him perform some 40 times around the globe since 2001 and met him in Las Vegas in 2018.

Elaine Thompson, from Newcastle, scooped £2.7 million in 1995. The first thing she did was go to M&S and buy a jumper in every colour — then she binned the receipt so she couldn’t return them.

Natalie Metcalf, from Gloucestershire, was eight months’ pregnant when she won £1 million in 2019. She went into labour the next day, and named her daughter Poppy Marie Lottie in honour of the win. 

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The money enabled her to buy a bigger house, closer to a private school that was better for her children’s needs. ‘I rang to cancel my benefits and the lady nearly dropped the phone when I said I’d won the Lottery,’ she said.

The same year, Lorraine Smith and Paula Barraclough, two best friends from Sunderland, scooped a £15 million lottery win as a result of an informal arrangement where they took it in turns to buy tickets occasionally.

In 2008, Susan Crossland, from Mirfield, West Yorkshire, scooped £1.2 million playing the same numbers as her late father, having being told by a psychic on the second anniversary of his death that she ‘would be left a pot of gold’ by him. She scooped the prize that same night.

The win enabled Susan and husband Michael to buy a purpose-built, seven-bedroom house, adapted for Susan’s disabled brother and two sisters, who all need round-the-clock care.

THE LOWS

While many dream of a lottery win, the history of Camelot’s tenure is also peppered with tales of marital breakdown, runaway spending and toxic investments that have taken some winners all the way from rags to riches — and back again.

Among them is Mukhtar Mohidin, a 42-year-old chemical factory shift-worker and father of three from Blackburn who made history in December 1994 as Britain’s first National Lottery multi-millionaire, by scooping the first rollover jackpot of £17.9 million.

Alas, his win led to a downward spiral. Shunned by his local Muslim community for gambling, he went on to suffer a bitter divorce and, in the aftermath, spent thousands on escorts and lavish living.

By the time he died in 2017, aged 64, he was living in a £35-a-night B&B in Blackpool and is buried in an unmarked grave.

Infamy also awaited Lee Ryan, who became known as the ‘Lotto Lag’ after winning £6.5 million in 1995 while awaiting trial for stealing cars.

He was jailed for 18 months and, on release, promptly bought a £1 million mansion, a £125,000 plane and a £235,000 Bell JetRanger helicopter, as well as a fleet of supercars with personalised number plates.

His money blown, he quickly ran into financial problems and was last known to be living in a two-bedroom rented flat in South London.

In 2004, Iorworth Hoare won £7.2 million despite serving a life sentence for attempted rape

In 2004, Iorworth Hoare won £7.2 million despite serving a life sentence for attempted rape

What would you blow your millions on? 

Your Rangyai Island holiday home in Thailand, get there by ACH160 helicopter and look the part in 128-carat Tiffany diamonds

£121 million island

£121 million island

£23 million necklace

£23 million necklace

£10.7 million chopper

£10.7 million chopper

£76 million yacht: Do a booze cruise in style on the O¿Ptasia

£76 million yacht: Do a booze cruise in style on the O’Ptasia

£11.4 million runabout: A Bugatti Voiture Noire for the school run

£11.4 million runabout: A Bugatti Voiture Noire for the school run

 

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The Lottery’s youngest winner, Callie Rogers, is also a salutary tale. She was only 16 and working as a £3.60-an-hour supermarket checkout girl in her native Cockermouth, Cumbria, when in 2003 she became an overnight millionaire after scooping £1.8 million.

She promptly left her job, gave £500,000 to friends and family, and splurged the rest on three surgical breast enhancements, lavish parties and £300,000 of designer clothes. Ten years on, the now mother of four had just a few thousand left.

Last year, she was reported to be claiming Universal Credit.

Since her win, the age limit for players has been increased to 18.

Further controversy came in 2004, when Iorworth Hoare won £7.2 million despite serving a life sentence for attempted rape.

Jailed in 1989 and released on licence in 2005, he had bought the ticket on weekend leave from prison, and his win was met with public outcry. Four years later, his victim Shirley Woodman, who subsequently waived her anonymity, successfully fought to change the law so she could sue him for damages despite the time allowed for a claim expiring.

Hoare last hit the headlines in 2016 when he was fined after resisting arrest when police came to his home in Northumberland to investigate an allegation of flashing.

And who can forget ‘Lotto Lout’ Michael Carroll, a former binman who squandered his 2002 £9.7 million win on a Norfolk mansion, whose garden he turned into a 24-hour racetrack, as well as spending millions on cocaine, gambling and prostitutes?

He appeared in court more than 30 times after his win, but is now living a more peaceful life in Scotland where he was last reported to be working as a coalman.

SPARE A THOUGHT

In 2001, Martyn and Kay Tott, from Watford, were dubbed ‘Britain’s unluckiest couple’ after missing out on a £3 million jackpot. It took the pair, who played the same numbers every week, six months to realise they had scooped the prize after they spotted an appeal for the winner to come forward (you have 180 days to claim winnings), only to realise simultaneously they had lost the ticket.

Computer records at their local store proved they were telling the truth — but after informing Camelot, the couple discovered they had fallen victim to a little-known rule stating that lost tickets must be reported within 30 days.

Even the support of public figures including Sir Richard Branson and Tony Blair was not enough to persuade Camelot to change the rules, and without the actual winning ticket, the Totts were unable to collect a single penny.

The couple’s marriage later broke down, although Martyn eventually explained that, after being initially tortured by his failed win, he had reconciled himself to what had happened.

‘There is no guarantee it would have brought me happiness,’ he told The Mail on Sunday.

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