The start of 2016 could be life-changing for one lucky Lotto winner after the jackpot for Saturday’s draw reached the highest ever single prize in the game’s history.
An estimated £46.5 million is up for grabs, eclipsing the previous jackpot record of £42 million shared by three ticket-holders in 1996, meaning a single winning ticket would see the holder instantly scoop the largest sum ever claimed.
A National Lottery spokesman said: “The largest Lotto jackpot the nation has ever seen is waiting to be won on Saturday. If a single ticket-holder wins the estimated £46.5 million jackpot they will be the biggest Lotto jackpot winner ever.”
The current biggest Lotto jackpot win on a single ticket was in 1995 when work colleagues Mark Gardiner and Paul Maddison, from Hastings, shared £22.5 million. The biggest individual winner is Iris Jeffrey, from Belfast, who won £20.1 million in 2004.
According to the Sunday Times Rich List, a single person taking the entire jackpot would see their winnings eclipse the riches of former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who is worth an estimated £40 million.
Their new-found wealth would put them in a similar financial league to some of the country’s richest celebrities, including singer Adele, who is worth around £50 million, and tennis star Andy Murray, who has about £48 million.
If £46 million was broken down into £50 notes they would cover 89 miles (143km) - roughly the distance from London to Leicester - if laid end to end, or around 101 metres, just over the height of Big Ben, if stacked.
But the record may go unbroken - once the Lotto jackpot reaches or exceeds £50 million, the jackpot money - if it remains not won - will roll into the next draw when it must be won.
If no ticket matches all six numbers then the jackpot prize is shared between winners in the next tier where there is at least one winner.
Some 65 people have won £1 million or more on the Lotto since the introduction of new Millionaire Raffle in October, which guarantees at least one millionaire per draw.
A National Lottery spokesman said: “2015 has seen a record 341 millionaires made up until December 15.
“Every Lotto draw is guaranteed to make another millionaire with the Lotto Millionaire Raffle, and a whopping 65 have been made by Lotto since October alone, so Saturday will see our annual record pushed even higher.”
Last year 341 millionaires shared £1.47 billion between them, beating the previous high of 335 in 2013.
Since the National Lottery began in 1994 players have shared more than £57 billion in prizes. It has also raised £34 billion for various projects, handing out more than 450,000 individual grants.
This year also saw Lotto operator Camelot controversially increase the number of balls from 49 to 59, decreasing the chance of winning the jackpot from one in 14 million to one in 45 million.
The new-look draw was met with scepticism from the public, but Camelot said the “enhancements” would provide a better chance of winning.