Set for life with the National Lottery?

The National Lottery is in its 25th year and will celebrate its 25th birthday later this year. The very first draw took place on 19 November 1994 and the Government originally forecast that it would raise £1 billion a year for good causes, but it’s certainly over-performed on that measure as over £39 billion has been awarded to more than 535,000 individual projects. Over £69 billion has also been paid out in prize money, creating more than 5100 millionaires or multi-millionaires.

As part of the celebrations, Camelot, which holds the license to run the National Lottery, has introduced a new game called Set for Life. Now Camelot refreshes its product line from time to time, but this launch has a rather different structure and is what’s called an ‘annuity game’.

To play, you have to pick five main numbers from 1 to 47, and one ‘life ball’ from 1 to 10. There are modest one-off pay-outs ranging from £5 to £250, but the top two prizes don’t pay out a single lump sum. Instead the prize money out gradually over a period of time. If you match the main numbers and the life ball, Set for Life offers a top prize of £10,000 a month for 30 years. For matching five main numbers, you win £10,000 a month for one year.

Now £10k a month isn’t footballers’ money, but it’s a rather nice monthly income that I’m sure anyone could live on very comfortably, thank you very much. Of course, I’d never give up working, because I love what I do, but if I were to win Set for Life, I would be, and of course that’s a rather attractive proposition, not a million miles away from the concept of universal basic income, currently being re-popularised by the likes of Rutger Bregman among others.

Announcing the new game, Camelot CEO, Nigel Railton, said, “Annuity games really appeal to a growing number of people who like the idea of winning a prize paid out in regular instalments over the long term, and are very successful in other countries. We think that Set for Life will be just as popular here in the UK – it will offer National Lottery players something completely new and meet a different set of consumer needs, especially among younger people.”

I imagine that Set for Life will indeed be just as popular in the UK as it is elsewhere – apparently, it’s very big in Australia and the US – but I was slightly surprised that Nigel Railton sees young people as being particularly keen to play. Really? I would have thought it would have greater appeal to the middle-aged, because receiving your winnings in instalments is like drawing a pension, and if you’re in your late forties or early fifties, £10k a month for 30 years should see you into retirement (and maybe the sheltered accommodation or care home if that should turn out to be the fate that awaits you).

Of course, it’s also like earning a regular salary, but when you’re young I would have thought a big lump sum seems far more attractive. You’re impatient. You yearn to live in the moment not postpone the pleasure. Or perhaps millennials aren’t like that, but as I said to the Sun when it asked what I thought about the new game, if you don’t have the experience or the right guidance, it can be easy to blow a large win, because you don’t know how to handle it.

When Frances and Patrick Connolly recently won the £115 million in the Euromillions jackpot they said they wouldn’t make any major changes to their lives and would share the money with family, friends and charitable causes, but there are plenty of examples of National Lottery winners who’ve embraced excess and swiftly ended up destitute.

A big win can be life-changing, but not always in a good way, and that’s really why I applaud the introduction of Set for Life. Camelot is acknowledging that it has a duty of care to its winners and a responsibility as a promoter, and it’s a good reminder that, in addition to complying with the CAP Code, all promoters have a duty to run ethical promotions that consider the effect their promotion will have on their winners.

As for Set for Life itself, granted, the approximate odds of winning £10,000 a month for 30 years are one in 15,339,390, but the overall odds of winning a prize, even if it’s just a fiver, are one in12.4, so, you know, I might just give it a go.

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist. She has only ever won £10 on the National Lottery.

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