Changing lives for two decades: The National Lottery celebrates 20 years

OVER TWO decades, it has handed out more than £53 billion and created 336 Yorkshire millionaires - and the allure of the lottery shows no signs of wearing off.

Niki Otterburn

Since the first draw on Saturday November 19, 1994, the National Lottery has created more than 3,700 millionaires and raised £32 billion for charity - and 70 per cent of us admit to regularly buying a ticket.

For some, the thrill of matching three numbers to pick up £25 is award enough for loyally picking those same numbers week in, week out, but for some of Yorkshire’s winners, hitting the jackpot has been life changing.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Niki Otterburn, 43, was working as a fitness instructor in a Leeds gym when she won £2,216,029 in November 2001. She was watching the live draw on the gyms television when she realised she’d won big, and used the money to pursue her passion for horse riding. She now spends her days training her four horses from a smallholding in Thirsk.

Niki Otterburn

“The Lottery win has given me a second chance to follow my dream,” Miss Otterburn said. “I spend every day outside whatever the weather and love every minute. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Alex Dyer and her late husband John ran Knaresborough Working Men’s Club in North Yorkshire when they won £5,957,937 in December 2003. Following the win the couple stayed in the area, buying a luxury home, and gave away almost half of their winnings to family, friends and charities.

Two years ago, after Mr Dyer passed away, Mrs Dyer moved to Spain where she has bought her dream home.

She said: “I absolutely love my home in Spain, it’s a bit like the ‘Good Life’ only with less rain thankfully. We grow our own food and as a horse lover it’s amazing to have my own horse so I can go riding on the beach whenever I want.”

1994 National Lottery presenters Gordon Kennedy, Noel Edmonds and Anthea Turner

After scooping £6.6m in August last year, Graham Nield of Batley, West Yorkshire, finally plucked up the courage to propose to his partner Amanda Vickers. Despite picking up a fortune, the couple went back to work the Monday after the draw, and married six weeks later at Dewsbury Register Office, followed by a party at the Dewsbury Rams rugby club.

In total, 3,289 prizes over £50,000 have been paid out across Yorkshire over the last 20 years, and £1.9bn has been awarded to good causes in the region.

More than £53 billion has been handed out in prizes and to good causes since 1994.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the National Lottery had “changed lives across the length and breadth of the UK.”

He added: “It’s made its mark on our landscape in the shape of the Angel of the North, the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and the Millennium Stadium.

“And, having raised over £32 billion for good-cause projects, it’s making a difference in our communities too - preserving treasured heritage sites, supporting the arts, propelling our sports stars to even greater heights and making a real difference to hundreds of thousands of smaller grassroots projects.”

IT may be an old cliché that 13 is unlucky - but pick it for your lottery numbers, and the chances are it won’t come up.

It’s made the fewest appearances in the competition’s history, with 38 being the most drawn ball.

The largest individual winner was Belfast’s Iris Jeffrey, who won a staggering £20.1 million in 2004. Unusual purchases from winners include a football club, a narrow boat and “a pair of new hips for the wife”.

The first draw was started by 18-year-old Deborah Walsh, who competed against 48 other for the honour in an hour-long show presented by Noel Edmunds.

On Saturday, 20 new millionaires will be created in a special draw.