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Q And A With Camelot

A user of this site e-mailed me to suggest that one of the early Euro Millions draws may have an incorrect number of winners in a tier. The official Camelot site doesn't keep any draw info for any of its games for more than 180 days, so I couldn't look it up there.

Hence, I decided to e-mail Camelot about this on 18th February 2013, but also included many additional questions I'd built up over recent years about the various ticket-based draws and the official Camelot Web site of course. I'm presenting them here as a Questions and Answers session with Camelot - they replied to my e-mail on 4th March 2013 in case you're wondering. I have also added further comments in italics as a response to each answer.


Question: Why do online sales for the ticket-based games (e.g. main Lotto, Thunderball, Euro Millions) stop at 11.00pm UK time and then resume the next day at 8.00am? The internet is a 24x7 medium, particularly for e-commerce, so I cannot understand why 9 hours of potential online sales are lost each day.

Answer: In regards to the opening times of our website, the website requires a period of down time to carry out an 'end of day' process and system maintenance. During this time we process essential works such as information updates and credit winnings to players' accounts.

I say: It almost sounds like they either can't do this maintenance quickly (surely an hour is enough?) or even at all e.g. can only do cold backups instead of hot ones. It should actually be noted that Wednesday nights are particularly bad at the moment - the main Lotto ticket sales close online at 7.30pm and do not open for another 12.5 hours!


Question: Why does the official UK lottery site only hold information about draws for 180 days? I can perhaps understand it for ticket checking (because you can't claim a prize more than 180 days after the draw took place), but it's very frustrating when attempting to download any sort of past data for analysis (whether it's the winning numbers, prizes or number of winners). I would request that any downloadable CSVs such as this one are extended to start from the very first draw.

Answer: We only hold 180 days worth of results because, as you are aware, any ticket older than this is no longer eligible for a prize. We restricted the search to active draws only because each search uses system resources and slows the database down. However we may re-include the ability in the future.

I say: Database searches, assuming the data is properly indexed/hashed, do not grow exponentially (or even linearly) as the data set grows. CSVs like I one I linked to above could be cached and only updated after each draw, therefore actually needing no database accesses for almost all requests of the CSVs. Sorry, I don't buy the slowdown explanation at all.


Question: Talking about CSVs, although there's CSVs like the one at the URL at I just mentioned, there are no CSVs containing the prize amounts and number of winners in each draw - why? There really should be because winning numbers, machine and ball sets are only half the draw's data!

Answer: Please note, we can supply the draw history, including prize tier data, to day one for any of our draw based products past or present on request.

I say: This is indeed true - Camelot e-mailed me Excel spreadsheets of the ticket-based games containing data like they stated all the way back to the first draw of each game. However, it again begs the question why that data isn't on the official Web site and didn't answer why there isn't an online CSV of prizes/winners at all.


Question: I would like ticket sales added to all draw pages again - you stopped displaying these in July 2003 with no sensible explanation why (getting upset at journalists isn't a valid excuse, BTW).

Answer: As ticket sales data is commercially sensitive, this information is not available for release. However you can view information in regards to Camelot's sales performance on the Camelot website by copying and pasting the below link in to your web browser. If you require further information in regards to sales, you can contact the Camelot Press Office on 020 7632 5711.

I say: Sigh. I don't think Camelot are going to budge on this any time soon. The performance URL above is just general waffle with some rough figures and percentages. I think publishing the ticket sales for every single draw they operate, which they publicly did for over 8 years (making the "commercially sensitive" argument somewhat weak), gives a better level of transparency. Without this, people start to wonder if Camelot are "hiding" something.


Question: When there are no prize winners in a tier, you should still display the unwon prize amount for that tier. Many, many times, you've stated such as prize as being "£0", when it clearly isn't. Here's an example from as recent as last week with the Thunderball.

According to the prize breakdown table, the unwon prizes for 5+T/ball and Match 5 were £0! In fact, they were £500,000 (which you even state under the "Are you a winner?" banner just above the table - completely contradicting the "Match 5 + Thunderball" table line!) and £5,000 respectively.

It happened last month in the main Lotto too. Apparently, the 5+bonus prize on offer was £0. Nope, that's completely wrong. I managed to reverse calculate it approximately to £708,782! So are you going to correct this?

Answer: Regarding the information provided on our website concerning prize tiers that have not been won, for fixed tier games (like Thunderball) if there are no winners for a given tier there is no "unwon prize". During the new licence, over 50% of total National Lottery revenue is expected to be paid to winners in prizes, while 12% of total revenue is expected to be paid to the Government in Lottery Duty. National Lottery retailers will earn 5% in sales commission for each Draw-Based Game - and 6% commission on each Scratchcard. Operating costs will be around 4% of total revenue and total profits, across the course of the licence, will range from 0.3% to a maximum of 0.5% of total revenue.

The balance of funds from total revenue deducting all of above will be the amount of money paid to Good Causes every week. This will include any prize monies not won on the Thunderball and Lotto Plus 5 draws.

The calculation is different for Lotto and other paramutual games where the value of the prize tier is dependant (sic) on how many winners there are in the other tiers so there is no prize value for a paramutal (sic) tier that had no matches.

I say: For fixed prize games, the prizes in each tier are published before each draw and those are the (non-zero) amounts that are offered for players who match the appropriate number of balls in each tier. The fact that some of the tiers may have no winners still does not change the prize that was offered in each tier before or after the draw took place. Camelot's publishing of "£0" as an individual prize in any such prize tier is actually changing the offered individual prize from a non-zero value before the draw to a zero value after the draw, which is completely wrong. I see the respondant also waffled about percentage splits of ticket sales for no valid reason.

Oh, and, for parimutuel games, there is still a prize calculation formula that should be applied even for tiers with no winners to calculate the prize that would have been won. Again, to claim that the result of that formula is £0 when there are no winners is wrong - I showed in the main Lotto example I gave that a non-zero prize figure can be reverse calculated.


Question: The Irish official Euro Millions site lists which countries the Euro Millions jackpot was won by and how many winners in each country there were. The official UK Euro Millions pages make no mention of any other countries! Why not?

Answer: Although we do not publish this information, we can advise the country which won the Euromillions jackpot by email or telephone request.

I say: Again, if you have that info to hand and will tell people who e-mail or phone you for it, why isn't it on the official Web site as well? It should be noted here that, sadly, the Irish official site is the only one (out of 10 official sites) to tell the public which countries won the Euro Millions jackpot. A big bucket of shame on the other 9!


Question: I've mentioned this on the phone to Camelot many times in the past, but you've never fixed it almost since the Euro Millions began. The page for the full Euro Millions results has very misleading columns and column headings in it (so much so, that most of your phone line staff don't realise what each column means!). Have a look at the latest page - the blue headings on the table are not only confusing, but also "missing" a column!

"No. of winners" is actually the "No. of European winners". Yep, nowhere in that table does it show the number of UK winners in each prize tier! I end up having to divide the "UK Prize fund" column figure by the "Pounds per UK winner" to get the number of UK winners - completely ludicrous when it would be easy to add a "No. of UK winners column" and change "No. of winners" to "No. of European winners". Are you going to fix this?

Answer: The Euromillions results page only lists UK pertinent data because we only sell tickets to UK based customers. I can also confirm that the Euromillions results page was designed to have a similar appearance to other draw based games at the time, which is why there is no 'number of UK winners' column'. Please may I reassure your comments will be taken in to consideration for any future refresh of the website.

I say: The columns are so confusing that I'd end up having to argue with Camelot phone line staff who were convinced that "No. of winners" meant "No. of UK winners" (well, the other columns mention the UK after all!). "Only lists UK pertinent data" eh? Hardly - the "No. of winners" column is the pan-European number of winners - far more non-UK winners than UK winners in fact! At least there's a chance that their next redesign might fix this, but I wouldn't hold my breath.


Question: Why are UK Euro Millions winning numbers/full results the slowest of all the 10 official Euro Millions sites? Considering Camelot was the driving force to get the multi-country game going in the first place, it's very embarrassing to be the last one to issue anything for each Euro Millions draw on the UK official site. Some other official Euro Millions sites have information about the evening's draw shortly after 8.30pm and all of them have at least something available within 45 minutes of that...except the UK site :-(

Answer: Concerning the posting of the EuroMillions results on our website, I should explain that after any National Lottery draw, results have to be confirmed by independent auditors before we are able to post them on our site. This is done to avoid any possible inaccuracies with the posted results and forms part of our license agreement.

I say: Yes, I figured they'd quote some auditing process, but does this mean either the UK auditors are slower than the 8 other countries' auditors or - even worse - do the other 8 countries publish the results without any auditing at all (which would breach their license agreement surely)?!


Question: HotPicks draw #1 was introduced on 10th July 2002, which was at the same time as main Lotto draw #683. Hence, HotPicks draw numbering should be 682 behind the main Lotto because they are two different games (no bonus ball and different prize structure in HotPicks).

However, ever since the start, the official UK site has completely wrongly numbered the HotPicks games with the same numbering sequence as the main Lotto! So this means HotPicks draw #1 was actually called HotPicks draw #683 by the official site and the latest HotPicks draw at the time of writing (which should be draw #1108 - it's the 1,108th HotPicks game after all!) is again wrongly numbered #1790.

"Lotto HotPicks draw 1790" indeed - if someone read that casually, they would think there had been 1,790 HotPicks draws. "Only" 682 more than there's actually been! Any chance of fixing this discrepancy?

Answer: In regards to the HotPicks game, there is no dedicated Hotpicks draw as it is a side game to the Lotto game. That's why it shares the same draw numbers as Lotto.

I say: HotPicks uses 6 of the 7 main Lotto numbers on the same days as the main Lotto. It has a separate prize structure from the main Lotto and you buy your ticket separately from the main Lotto (with no dependency on buying a main Lotto ticket either) - it is a separate game. Therefore its first draw should be numbered 1 and not 683 because it is not part of the main Lotto game. As if to cement this, the Excel spreadsheet for HotPicks that Camelot sent me has both a "draw" and a "game" column (though I'd argue they got the figures in the columns the wrong way around!).


Question: I believe the main Lotto is changing in the Autumn - is there a date set for this yet and when will the new Rules and Procedures booklet be issued?

I must say that whilst I do like the new prize structure, the additional main Lotto raffle is a massive mistake (£20,000 is poor compared to the Euro Millions £1m raffle) and should have been left out to allow the price to increase to £1.50 instead of to £2.00.

As it is, you will lose main Lotto players in a substantial manner - some will stop playing on Wednesdays to keep the weekly spend to £2 and others will defect to the Euro Millions for the better prizes in the main and raffle parts of the game. [I should have also mentioned that some people will completely abandon all Camelot games because of this doubling of the ticket price. And I forgot to ask how the randomly generator raffle number works for subscribers like me who play fixed main Lotto numbers]

Answer: I can confirm that the changes to Lotto will take place in Autumn 2013 however at this time we are unable to provide an exact date. Please may I reassure you that we will give our players plenty of notice of when the changes will take place.

I say: Basically no answer at all there then. They didn't rise to the bait about the naff raffle game and how the doubling of the ticket price will decimate the number of players.


Question: Why does it take until the next day for you to e-mail to prize winners that they've won? Even with auditing going on for a few hours, you'd have thought the mailshot could have started before midnight at least.

Answer: Regarding win confirmation emails, please note, we will process your tickets in the early hours of the morning following the draw; this will also be when any winnings will be paid into your Interactive account online wallet. Your ticket will not be displayed as a winning ticket before this time.

Therefore the win confirmation email is usually sent to the email address registered to your Interactive account, in the early hours of the morning following the draw. We have have no control however as to when the email arrives in your inbox.

I say: I haven't seen a winning confirmation e-mail before 9.00am the next day, so I suspect they send them out not in the "early hours" at all. Basically, once the full results are on their Website (which are fully audited remember!), they should start payments to accounts and send out e-mails to winners. It surely could all be done and dusted by, say, 1.00am?


Question:

As I mentioned earlier, it's impossible to get any information about draws older than 180 days from the official UK Website. Is there some way this could be e-mailed to me (any format will do) for every single draw in all the ticket-based games currently still active (main Lotto, Lotto Plus 5, Thunderball, HotPicks, Euro Millions)? This would include the following draw data going right back to draw #1:

I bet they're somewhere in Camelot's computer systems (when, in fact, they should be on the official UK site of course and available to the public!).

Answer: For your information I have attached the draw history for the games requested. However, please note, information in regards to ticket sales data, the number of Lucky Dips dips per draw and the unclaimed major prizes for each draw is not available.

I say: Replace "is not available" with "is available, but we're not giving it to you". Ticket sales info obviously exists and I've seen Camelot occasionally quote the percentage of Lucky Dip players (or winners), so they have that info too. They do actually list currently unclaimed prizes (but not beyond 180 days obviously) on the official site, so that info exists at Camelot too. Ignoring the missing data, this is the first question that actually got a decent answer!


Question: On the BBC TV show (sadly down to just Sat nights now), the Voice Of The Balls claims the Thunderball machine is always "Excalibur" and has done so pretty well since the Thunderball game began. However, I'm sure you're aware that there are many Excalibur machines (numbered 1 to 6 I think), so why doesn't the VOTB state the full Thunderball machine name including its number? It makes it sound like there's one machine used all the time otherwise!

Answer: I am pleased to confirm that the Thunderball machine number will now be included for all future draws on the BBC show.

I say: I'd say "w00t" here but there's no such word. Second result there and the Thunderball draw aired live on Saturday 2nd March 2013 did indeed say "Excalibur 6" instead of the usual wrong designation of just "Excalibur". I've just forced Alan Dedicoat to say one extra word every Saturday night - I'm evil :-)

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