Next month: February 2006
Of course, no-one actually bothered to tell the official lottery Web site maintainers about the revised estimate, so we had both a custom graphic logo and the "Next Est. Jackpot" on the official site's home page both incorrectly stating £100m all day. No shock there then.
Well, after the draw took place (not at 9.30pm that the BBC News Website's been claiming all week, but just after 9.00pm - the winning numbers turned up on Camelot's site at 9.10pm), Camelot's Web site seemed to be quite slow for the rest of the evening (their rubbishy form-based dynamic pages hammering their server as usual). It was up to the Irish official site to come up with the jackpot prize pool figure in Euros first - they're usually the fastest off the mark most weeks. Strangely though, the Irish rounded up the fractional jackpot amount to 152,882,223 Euros, when in fact the official Austrian site later confirmed it was actually 152,882,222.80 Euros.
The pan-European results also tend to come from the Irish official site first and tonight was no exception (at about 10.10pm or so). Around the same time, the BBC News website put up a news article quoting Camelot's press release that there was no jackpot winner, but what did we have on Camelot's official site? Well, you could deduce that there was no winner because the estimated jackpot for next Friday appeared (£125m - no doubt another underestimate assuming a drop in ticket sales), but nowhere on the site did it actually state that the jackpot hadn't been won. I'd worked that out from the new estimate anyway and put it up - a quick look at the BBC News site confirmed this as I said.
So, I then twiddled my thumbs and waited for Camelot's update, which finally turned up at 10.54pm, giving me just enough time to update the site with everything but the number of UK winners and then phone Camelot for those (yes, for many months, they haven't put the number of UK winners up, so my site has indeed been getting exclusive figures for those - and I suspect anyone else displaying them copies off my site!).
Once I'd got the UK winners figures, I did my usual mention that "these aren't on your official site" and the woman on the line seemed to insist they were "but just haven't been confirmed yet, so aren't up". I told her that wasn't the case, but she insisted the procedure had just changed and they'd effectively be reading the same page as I did if someone phoned up and asked for figures relating to the draw. A quick check to see if the previous week's Euro Millions figures included the number of UK winners showed that they hadn't been updated, so I told her that, yes, it would be great if they put up the number of UK winners, but I'm not holding my breath on that. In fact, I reckon the policy change might be to refuse to state the number of UK winners on the phone line and not put the figure on the Web site either, but that wasn't the case either tonight (but it might be next week).
Of course, when I'm being fed porkies like this woman was claiming, it gets my hackles raised and I also pointed out that their official site didn't actually tell the public that the jackpot wasn't won until the 10.54pm update - it only stated next week's £125m estimate, from which you could deduce that there was no winner tonight, but the casual site visitor might not infer that. She replied that "we don't release info about jackpot winners until the results are confirmed" and I pointed out the BBC News article at 10.10pm (clearly fed from an official Camelot press release) that said there was no jackpot winner and yet the official Web site didn't say anything clearly about this for another 45 minutes - yep, effectively, the BBC scooped the official Camelot site to announcing there was no jackpot winner.
I think was really was the final straw for the woman on the other end of the line - exasperated that I kept catching her out with lies time and time again, she terminated the conversation narkily with "well, I'll bow to your better judgement then" and then slammed the phone down on me. Nice customer relations, there, Camelot! I wonder if that phone call was "recorded for training purposes"... :-)
Right, now I've calmed down after that silly phone call escapade (that's twice in the last month or so I've had some quite stroppy Camelot phone line staff trying [and failing] to argue with me - you wonder if they're just getting a bit bored and irritated with their job?), it's time to do the usual simple linear interpolation for next Friday's jackpot (i.e. assume the ticket sales will remain constant).
Last week's unwon jackpot was £87,820,908 and this week's was £105,412,292 - so just add the difference of £17,591,384 to this week's jackpot to get an estimate of £123,003,676. So it looks like we've finally seen Camelot actually predict the sales for next week will increase rather than drop - I think they've got that about right and it's the first jackpot estimate that's been sensible for many weeks.
Interesting to note that this week's Euro Millions draw still fell over £2m short in money spent on tickets compared to the UK record of £127,824,795 set just over 10 years ago and that's even with the involvement of 9 rollovers and 9 countries instead of just two rollovers and one country! It shows that the early days of the main UK lotto were indeed an absolute powerhouse of popularity.
Although it's very likely the ticket sales in monetary value for next week's Euro Millions will finally eclipse that decade-old record, remember that those tickets will have cost £1.50 each in the UK and 2 Euros elsewhere, so the actual number of tickets bought is far less than 125 million. Let's just play a bit of maths fun to see if we can guess how many physical Euro Millions tickets were bought this week (ignoring countries like Switzerland who don't use the Euro, but their sales aren't worth factoring in)...
In total this week, there were 760,306 ("A") UK winners of prizes and 3,905,239 ("B") winners across the whole of Europe (including the UK). Pan-European ticket sales were 181,567,186 ("C") Euros - non-UK tickets cost 2.000 ("D") Euros and UK tickets cost 2.177 ("E") Euros. Hence, in the UK, there were (A/B*C)/E tickets purchased = 16,237,521 (yes, millions worse than even a Wednesday main Lotto draw!). Outside the UK, there were ((1-A/B)*C)/D tickets bought = 73,109,051 (yes, 4.5 times more players than the UK). This totals 89,346,572 tickets - some 38m short of the UK record and is unlikely to be beaten in the next 3 weeks.
Why just the next 3 weeks? Well, Camelot have put a limit of 12 consecutive unwon jackpots that can be rolled over - the 13th unwon jackpot (due on 10th February if we're "unlucky") will be equally shared amongst the highest tier (probably 5+1 stars) containing winners in that 10th February draw. With odds of "only" 5,448,240 to 1 to win 5+1 vs. 76,275,360 to 1 to win 5+2, that 10th February draw looks very enticing w.r.t. buying a ticket. Theoretically, it could have zero 5+2 jackpot winners, 20-25 5+1 jackpot winners and a jackpot prize pool of £150m (which couldn't grow any more - would be reset to £10m the following week). This could mean £7m each for the winners but with odds more than 2.5 times better than the main Lotto. I might actually pop my Euro Millions cherry on that draw if this scenario crops up.
Finally, we come aorund the usual low-balling of the estimated jackpot by the official sites - all of them are saying £100m (146m Euros), which yet again assumes a large drop in sales next week. Expect this to be revised to £105m next week if the sales increase again like they've been doing for every draw in this long rollover run.
Doing my usual calculation that assumes the same ticket sales next week as this week, the jackpot should increase by the same amount it did this week, namely by £13,922,210 to £101,743,118 - so my estimate is £102m (a slight increase in sales to be conservative, unlike the large drop in sales the official sites are claiming will happen).
Yes, that does still sound bizarre, so let's perform a simple sales analysis:
This unwon jackpot sequence started on 18th November last year with a £10.3m unwon jackpot and pan-European sales of £40.6m. Every Euro Millions draw since then has shown an increase in sales and, of course, the unwon jackpot amount. There was a noticeable ramp up (by £10.7m) in sales during the week of the pre-Christmas draw (Christmas presents for people maybe?), but it should be noted that there was a far more impressive (and frankly quite gigantic) sales increase of £35.9m last week!
That draw last Friday had ticket sales of £112.4m and an unwon jackpot of £73.9m - because of its huge sales increase, we should take a conservative stance and assume that the ticket sales won't be any higher this week (i.e. they've dragged in most of the "high jackpot" players by now, who'll probably keep playing until the jackpot is won). So let's simply add last week's jackpot prize pool increase of £12,096,898 to last Friday's jackpot prize pool of £73,898,698 to give us an estimate of £85,995,596 (yes, amazingly close to my estimate of £86m last Friday) assuming the same ticket sales levels as last week.
So, as I said earlier on, Camelot's estimate of £85m is actually telling the world they think the ticket sales will drop, despite them increasing every week during this rollover run and just having increased by the largest amount ever last week. In fact, in all likelihood, we're probably going to see a further sales increase, but last week's sales "spike" anomaly makes that figure a bit difficult to use to interpolate, but I wouldn't be surprised if it hit £90m. What I'm certain of is that my estimate is almost guaranteed to more accurate than Camelot's, unless they revise their figures yet again later in the week :-)
Footnote: The other official Euro Millions sites around the rest of Europe are also assuming the sales will drop - most are estimating 125m Euros (=£85.7m), with the Swiss estimating 194m CHF (=£85.8m). It really is quite surprising that every official site is quite pessimistic that the sales will hold up from last week's freaky increase!
The bloke I got initially was hopeless - by far the worst one to date (yes, he had a foreign accent, let's just leave it at that). It took him a while to even find the UK winners page (yes, I was put on hold while he asked someone else if they were the right figures - surely the page would have had a title on his screen saying what the figures were?).
Having confirmed they were the right figures, I asked him to read out the number of 5+1 star UK winners downwards and I duly got the figure "279" read out to me first. I was like "WTF?!" - there were 21 5+1 star winners across the whole of Europe! He then explained this was the 2+1 figure (yes, he'd started from the bottom of the table and not from the second line), which I then told him was ridiculous because there were over 2m 2+1 winners in Europe.
So I eventually got him to restart from the second tier downwards and he read them out (I repeated most of them back to him to confirm I'd typed them in right and hadn't misunderstood his tricky accent). I also told him about the underestimated figure (£80m) on the official site's home page for next week's draw (it should be at least £86m if you just add the difference between this week's and last week's jackpot to the latest jackpot figure), but he didn't seem too interested.
I plugged the figures into my data file and re-generated the pages, only to find that the total UK prize pool (yes, how do you work that out only from the figures that are on the official site? Answer: You can't! You have to get the UK number of winners in each tier like I do - they aren't shown on Camelot's site) didn't match, indicating - no surprise there - an error somewhere. I cross-checked the UK prize amounts and they were all OK, so it was indeed a problem with the figures I'd been given on the phone.
So, it's back to Camelot on the phone again and I got a woman this time who was quite efficient reading out the UK number of winners figures and she got them all correct too. It turns out the original bloke read out three wrong figures out of the 11 he gave me - a 27% failure rate, not good. Anyway, I raised the point about the £80m estimated jackpot being way too low and the woman got quite defensive about it, claiming that "Camelot never change their estimated figures" (which is a whopping porky to tell - I've seen them change them in the past if their estimate is way off, which it is this week).
After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, I did challenge her to a bet about it :-) She didn't take me up on the offer, but I pointed out that when the graphic designers go to work on Monday, they'll be told to put up some sort of jackpot logo for Euro Millions on the official site (they've done it for the past several weeks) and when they realise that other official sites around Europe have around £86m as their estimate and that's what you get if assume at least the same sales again as last week, they'll have to revise their figure they put in the logo.
Note that they underestimated it by nearly £4m last week too (their logo said £70m), but at least that estimate did assume equal sales (they spiked further to explain the underestimate), but Camelot's current estimate actually assumes a massive drop in sales for the next draw, which is utterly ludicrous of course. Still, the woman on the phone was unrepentant and didn't believe the figure was wrong, so I gave up and just said "we'll see that I'm right next week" and left it at that.
Previous month: December 2005