Spot The Ball hasn't paid out jackpot in over 10 years

Spot the winner, anybody?

Peter Cook with some of his losing entries

Despite spending £1,300 on the competition over the last 11 years, Peter Cook, of Nuneaton, Warwickshire, says he's won just £10 and a pair of £2 vouchers.

He puts £2.50 a week on 1,000 crosses, aiming to pinpoint the centre of a football that's been removed from a photo of the game.

The 66-year-old former local newspaper editor and commercial manager for Tamworth FC confronted organisers Sportech, which bought out the previous organiser, Littlewoods, in 2000.

And, they confirmed, there hasn't been a £250,000 jackpot payout since 2004.

"If no one won the Lottery jackpot for that long there'd be an outcry," Mr Cook told the Daily Mirror. "It's baffling - by the law of averages someone should have won it by now."

But according to Sportech, this isn't the case: indeed, it says, the reason for the lack of payout is that fewer people are playing.

"The top prize is won by guessing the exact centre of the ball but this has not happened since 2004, reflecting the fact fewer people play the game," the company explained.

"However, £16 million has been paid out for other prizes, including for being closest to the centre of the ball."

Certainly, the number of Spot The Ball players has fallen dramatically since the launch of the National Lottery in 1994. Back in the 70s, the game had millions of players; now it's only around 14,000. Clearly, the chance of someone picking exactly the right spot in any given week is lower than it was.

Sometimes, though, there are problems with competitions and games of chance that really do seem unfair. Last summer, the Sun revealed that National Lottery Cash scratchcards were on sale throughout the UK - despite the fact that the top jackpot prizes had already been won. Camelot said this was perfectly legal.

And, this week, we've learned of a New Mexico man whose scratchcard revealed that he'd actually won the top prize twice. But when he contacted officials, they told him that there was a misprint on the ticket, and that he wasn't entitled to anything.

You might think that the odds on winning Spot The Ball are less easy to calculate than those for the lottery, as there's skill in studying the players' positions and the direction of their gaze to deduce the position of the ball.

Not so, says Sportech, which is currently embroiled in a row with HMRC, claiming it's not liable to pay VAT as Spot The Ball is a game of chance, not skill.

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