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The National Lottery’s 25 years old today! Here’s what you could have made by buying UK stocks

You might not know it, but Tuesday, 19 November 2019 is a momentous day in modern British history. It was 25 years ago exactly that Camelot organised the very first National Lottery draw at BBC Television Centre, London.

Back then a monster 48m tickets were bought as the country excitedly awaited the first jackpot, and a top prize of £5,874,778 was shared between seven lucky people who correctly matched the six winning numbers.

Long odds

The National Lottery might not be as popular as it was all those years ago, a consequence of the growth of online betting and the inevitable decline in the game’s novelty value. It still pulls in an ocean of players for its midweek and Saturday night draws, however, and it’s no mystery as to why: everyone (or almost everyone) fantasises about becoming a millionaire, and picking six lucky numbers on your entry slip is seen as the fast track to the big time.

Of course the business of actually winning is not quite so simple. The criteria of the main Lotto game has changed in the past quarter of a decade and under current rules the chances of scooping the top prize sits at a mind-boggling one in 45,057,474.

For the majority of players, then, partaking in the National Lottery is something of a fruitless endeavour. And a costly one at that, too, with little return barring the rare sub-£100 payout one can get by matching a small handful of numbers.

Bigger returns!

So let’s put some meat on the bones and look at how much someone who has played the Lotto game each and every week in the 1,304 weeks since that first-ever draw of autumn 1994. If that person spent £30 per week, they’d have poured a whopping £39,120 down the drain in that time.

Off the top of my head I can think of dozens of better ways to have used that cash over the past quarter of a century, one of which being using it to invest in stocks. Studies have shown that long-term equity investors can, on average, expect to make returns of 10% a year by purchasing shares.

If our hypothetical Lotto player had taken that £130.40 they used to buy lottery tickets and invested in equity markets instead, based on that usual rate of return, they would likely have made a cool £160,826! How many regular National Lottery players can claim to have made that sort of return in the past 25 years?

It’s time to stop looking backwards, though, and to consider what is on offer to modern share investors. With data showing that dividends from UK stocks are sitting at record highs there’s still clearly plenty of opportunity to make a fortune.

And fortunately there’s a wealth of information out there to help share pickers come up with the right strategy to help them get rich and live a life of luxury. So forget about chasing lottery balls and get investing today!

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Royston Wild has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.