Free Postcode Lottery: what's the catch?

Chris Holbrook

Chris Holbrook doesn't like lotteries and he hates gambling. It seems like an odd position to hold when you're at the helm of a lottery website, but the 36-year-old web developer from Finsbury Park in London has come up with a new twist on the idea of a lottery: one where you don't have to buy a ticket.

He told AOL Money: "I wanted to create an anti-gambling website, to provide an alternative to the lottery, where you don't have to risk your money."

With, you don't buy a ticket, instead you sign up for free with your postcode and your email address. Every day at noon there's a main prize draw, and the site publishes the winning postcode. You get an email reminding you to visit the site and check whether you have won. If it's your postcode up there, you have 24 hours to claim your prize.

Holbrook told AOL: "The fact you have to go back each day to check if you have won creates page impressions, and that drives revenue from the advertisers, which pays for the prizes." He doesn't take any money from players, and he doesn't sell any details onto third parties.
The prizes

The main daily jackpot is £80. However, Holbrook points out: "The winners have 24 hours to claim their prize, and if they don't, it rolls over into the following draw. It rolls over more often than not, and a month ago we had a jackpot of £700."

He has also introduced 'Stackpot' draws at 9am and 9pm (which offer prizes of £10, and the prizes keep 'stacking' if they aren't claimed), and in the footer of the webpage, eagle-eyed users can spot that there's another 'secret' mini draw from 6pm to midnight every evening, with the postcodes printed at the footer of the webpage.

At the moment the site has 150,000 active users, and 70,000 unique visitors a day. Holbrook plans to increase the jackpot as the membership grows. At the moment he has 8% of all UK postcodes registered, so his jackpot is £80. When he has 9% he will bump it up to £90. He adds: "I'm eventually aiming to have 100% of UK postcodes, and give away thousands of pounds in a number of different draws."

Two weeks ago Holbrook took the huge step of giving up his other web development work and going full time on the site. He says: "When this started, it was just a bit of fun: now it's paying my mortgage." In fact, with his wife recently starting maternity leave, there's a lot riding on the success of the site.

Is it worth it?

The odds aren't as good as those available on the National Lottery. Holbrook has 150,000 active users at the moment, so your odds of winning the main jackpot of £80 each day is 150,000:1. The odds of winning something similar on the National Lottery are 1033:1.

However, the vital difference, is that the cost of losing is very different too. The vast majority of people entering every lottery will lose. If you buy a National Lottery ticket every week for a year and lose, you're £104 worse off. If you enter the free postcode lottery and check it every day for a year, even if you don't win, you have lost absolutely nothing.

Holbrook says: "All it costs is the time it takes to check if you're a winner. If you don't have the time, then it may not be right for you, but if you do: why not?"

Biggest UK lottery winners
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Free Postcode Lottery: what's the catch?

Colin and Chris Weir, from Largs in Ayrshire scooped 161 million in the EuroMillions draw after several rollovers in 2011. They are the biggest British lottery winners in history.

Adrian Bayford, who won an astonishing £148m on the Euromillions with his wife Gillian, had to shut up the music shop he owns, because people targeted it with requests for money.
One British ticket won  £113,019,926 in October 2010 but decided not to go public.
Car mechanic and racing driver Neil Trotter scooped a staggering £107.9 million jackpot on the Euromillions lottery in March 2014.
Dave and Angela Dawes won £101 million on the EuroMillions in 2011. It was only the third time the couple, from Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, had played the lottery. The couple are said to have since split up.
The sum was won in May 2010 but the winner kept their identity a secret.
One lucky British ticket-holder picked up a £81million EuroMillions rollover but remained anonymous.

Nigel Page and Justine Laycock from Cirencester bagged a £56 million jackpot back in February 2011. On winning the jackpot, Page said: 'I'd already checked my National Lottery account and had seen I'd won £55 on Lotto when I decided to buy two Lucky Dips for the big EuroMillions jackpot on Friday.'

One lucky winner won shy of 50 million but chose to remain anonymous.

Les and Sam Scadding from Newport, South Wales, and a syndicate of seven Liverpudlian call-centre workers shared a staggering £91 million in November 2009. Les, an unemployed mechanic, was £68 overdrawn on the day he bought his ticket, while the Liverpool syndicate only started playing EuroMillions together four months before their win.

Carrington, 22, from Stapleford in Nottingham, banked £45 million after matching all five numbers and two Lucky Stars in a EuroMillions draw in February 2012. The Iceland supervisor said she planned to marry painter fiancee Matt Topham, 22, following the Lucky Dip win.

Husband and wife Gareth and Catherine Bull have fairly modest spending plans despite their £40.6 million jackpot win in January. Speaking about what she planned to do now that she was rich, Catherine explained that she intended to use part of their winnings to replace the carpet on her upstairs landing...

Angela Kelly became one of the biggest lottery winners in UK history back in 2007, after scooping a £35 million EuroMillions jackpot. This is estimated to earn £5,000 a day in interest alone, meaning she's unlikely to ever be short of cash.

In June 2009, 74-year-old Brian Caswell got the surprise of his life when he took his lottery ticket to his local newsagent and discovered he'd won almost £25 million.

Belfast housewife Iris Jeffrey, 58, was the lucky holder of the record 20.1 million rollover lottery winning ticket back in 2004.

Jeffrey, 58, a cancer sufferer, only realised three weeks after the draw took place that she had won the  jackpot after organisers Camelot pleaded for the person holding the prize ticket to come forward and claim the prize.

Stephen Smith and his wife Ida from Hemel Hempstead, Herts, won nearly 19 million in the National Lottery. Mr Smith said he would give up his winnings if he could have his health and the chance to live a longer life with his wife.

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