EIGHTEEN years ago a luminous thumbs-up logo filled our TV screens and proclaimed: “It could be you!”
Lottery-mania was upon us and the very first National Lottery draw, hosted by Noel Edmonds, attracted a staggering 48 million entries.
Since then there have been 263 big winners in Oxfordshire – all of whom have won over £50,000 – with 27 of them becoming millionaires or multi-millionaires.
But in recent years, the advent of new, more exciting lottery games, such as Thunderball and Euromillions has led to an increasing number of people giving the Lottery’s flagship game Lotto, the thumbs down.
Revenue from Lotto ticket sales was down to £4.26bn in 2000 and just £2.48bn in 2012.
In a bid to boost sales, operators Camelot have doubled the price of a line from £1 to £2 this month.
This a move has been met with anger and even threats of boycotts on Twitter and Facebook.
Oxford newsagents have revealed that while many customers are disgruntled about the rise, it hasn’t stopped them buying tickets.
Sarwar Hussein runs Globe News in Iffley Road, Oxford.
He said: “The Lottery is very popular and although some people have been shocked at having to pay £2 a line instead of the usual £1, there doesn’t seem to have been a drop in the number of people buying tickets. Most people have accepted the rise.”
There is good news for punters with increases in prize money for matching fewer balls and a bigger jackpot, rising from £4.1m to around £5m.
But this isn’t good news for charities and community groups, as a bigger jackpot will mean less money (2.35 per cent) going to good causes.
Anya Reynolds from Camelot said: “Our players have told us that they want bigger prizes and more ways to win more money. In order to do this, we need to create a bigger prize fund for Lotto to enable us to return more in prizes.”
Alison Baxter (pictured) is chief executive of Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action (OCVA), which supports the county’s voluntary and community sector with development and funding advice and training.
She said: “The Big Lottery has been a vital source of income for Oxfordshire charities and is increasingly important in these difficult times when government funding is being cut and individual donors are hard pressed for cash.
“The 2.3 per cent is a small percentage but still represents a substantial amount of money that would make a real difference to people in need.”
One thing that will not change however, are the somewhat remote odds of winning.
To hit the jackpot, or a share of it, you will still have to pick the six winning balls – the odds of which are still a mind-boggling 13,983,816 to one.
It could be you, as they say.
But with odds of just a million to one – you are more likely to be struck by lightning.
Winnings go to charities, a posh car and family
Charmaine Watson was a struggling mother-of-one on benefits, when she scooped £2.3m on the Lottery in 2005.
Eight years on she has move to a bigger house, but still holidays in Weymouth and says the money has not changed her.
Mrs Watson, 33, is now married with three children and still lives in Eynsham where she grew up with her husband Robbie, 43 and their children Ryan, nine, Georgia, seven and Daniel, four.
She vowed to help charities if she ever won the Lottery and she started to do that before even buying herself a new four-bedroom home and her mum a new house too.
After suffering at the hands of bullies for most of her years at secondary school she threw her support behind an anti-bullying musical called Stand Tall which had gone into local schools.
She said: “I have put £40,000 into the musical and still am an associate producer.”
She has also donated £25,000 to the Multiple Sclerosis Society in Oxfordshire to pay for sufferers to have respite care and is a supporter of Cancer Research UK and the NSPCC.
She added: “Money hasn’t changed me and I don’t talk about it. I still have the same friends too and they tell me I haven’t changed.”
Mrs Watson no longer plays the Lottery, although her nan still plays Charmaine’s ‘lucky’ numbers each week.
She said: “The Lottery has changed my life in that it has given me and my family security I could have only once dreamed about.
“Recently Ryan asked for the new FIFA video game and I told him he had to do chores before I would buy it for him.”
She continued: “I still don’t have a passport either, because I don’t like the idea of going in a plane.
“When we got married we honeymooned in the Lake District although I think I may have to get a passport soon because the children are desperate to go abroad.
“Above all I am most grateful to the Lottery for giving me the opportunity to help others.”
Oxford United fan Graham Tustain from Banbury twice cheated death before winning more than £4m on the National Lottery in 2010. He survived a motorbike crash which left him in a coma for 13 weeks, and a serious car crash.
Doctors said he might never wake up and would probably never walk again if he did come round after the bike smash in 1984.
But 26 year later Mr Tustain, scooped £4,425,001 and promised to splash out on a top of the range £30,000 Volvo and treat his friends to football tickets.
In October 2010 keen angler Ron Cook, 77 from Wallingford, netted £245,142 by matching five balls and the bonus number – and promised to spend the cash on his brothers and sisters.
At the time, Mr Cook said: “I go and buy the Oxford Mail at 6.50am every morning and at first I thought I had got four numbers.
“It was only when Ashley, the manager at my local newsagent, KP Stationers, checked the numbers, that we both realised I had won a bit more than I first thought.”
Mr Cook, a retired printer who spent 29 years working for Oxford University Press, lives with his brother Peter, 64.
He has lived in the same house for 75 years, after moving there with his parents and seven siblings in 1935.
He said: “It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it will. Just to not have to worry about bills is fantastic.”
He planned to spend the money flying his niece and her husband over from Canada to visit his sister, Joan.
School is so grateful for £7k grant
West Oxford Community Primary School in Ferry Hinksey Road, Oxford, has used £7,316 from the Big Lottery Fund to develop community play facilities through the improvement of its main playground.
The work, completed this summer, is now proving very popular with pupils.
Saskya Huggins, 42, vice-chairwoman of the Friends of the school explained: “Through our own fundraising and support from our community, we were able to buy a really great climbing frame.
“Providing us with money which would have taken a lot more time to raise ourselves, the grant allowed us to install a special ‘goal end’, or protective wall, next to our Foundation Unit and alongside our football court, so the schoolchildren and those using the after school club can use the climbing frame too. Lottery funding is a very valuable source of funding for grassroots projects.”