National Lottery operator Camelot has paid out record amounts to prize winners and good causes after its draws and scratchcards surged in popularity.
Camelot, which runs games including Lotto and National Lottery scratchcards, said winnings hit £1.7 billion in the six months to September 24, up £300 million on the previous year.
The bumper haul, boosted by Colin and Chris Weir's £161 million EuroMillions jackpot in August, means the Lottery has paid out £40 billion since its launch in 1994 and created 2,700 millionaires.
Returns to good causes, ranging from arts projects to healthcare charities, were up 17% to £918.3 million. The Lottery has now raised more than £650 million towards the London 2012 Olympics from sales of specially designated games and is on track to hit a £750 million target.
Sales also hit record levels, up 20% to £3.3 billion, as more people playing online and two "exceptional" EuroMillions rollover draws helped it put in an "outstanding performance".
Camelot, which is owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, said sales through its website and by regular subscriptions were up more than a third to £513.7 million.
Its performance was also boosted by putting on more draws, including a EuroMillions draw on Tuesday, and more online games.
Chief executive Dianne Thompson said the sales increase had been achieved in the face of a challenging economic environment, a worldwide trend towards lower lottery sales and challenging high street conditions.
She added: "We've made an extremely positive start to the financial year, raising a record amount for the good causes and paying out record sums in prize money to our players, which is what the National Lottery is all about."
Lottery funding has now raised £27 billion for good causes and paid for 370,000 individual awards. This financial year, around 28% of its revenue is expected to go to good causes, more than 50% to prize winners, between 5% and 6% to retailers, 4% on operating costs and 12% in Government lottery duty. Between 0.3% and 0.5% of revenue will be taken as profits.
© 2011 Press Association