Lotto 6/49 is one of three national lottery games in Canada. Launched on June 12, 1982, Lotto 6/49 was the first nationwide Canadian lottery game to allow players to choose their own numbers. Previous national games, such as the Olympic Lottery, Loto Canada and Superloto used pre-printed numbers on tickets. Lotto 6/49 led to the gradual phase-out of that type of lottery game in Canada.
Winning numbers are drawn by the Interprovincial Lottery Corporation every Wednesday and Saturday, executed with a Smartplay Halogen II ball machine.
As the name implies, six numbers are drawn from a set of 49. If a ticket matches all six numbers, the jackpot prize of at least $5,000,000 is won. A bonus number is also drawn, and if a player's ticket matches five numbers and the bonus number, he or she wins the "second prize" which is usually between $100,000 and $500,000. Should more than one player win the top or second prize, it is split amongst them. Lesser prizes are also awarded if one matches at least three numbers, or two numbers plus the bonus number. If the top prize is not won, the jackpot prize increases for the next draw.
As many as ten separate "lines" (sets of numbers) can be printed on one individual ticket, but the maximum number allowed varies between jurisdictions. For example, in the Western Canada Lottery Corporation (WCLC) area — Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut — no more than six lines are allowed.
The price of Lotto 6/49 tickets was raised in June 2004 from the original $1 per line to $2 per line in order to offer larger jackpots. The minimum jackpot amount was also raised from $2 million to $3 million.
Beginning with the September 18, 2013 draw, further changes were made to the game: ticket prices were raised to $3 per line, matching two numbers now awards a free ticket for the next draw, and the minimum jackpot was raised to $5 million. Additionally, a new "guaranteed" $1 million raffle prize is awarded during each drawing.
Before the June 2004 increase in ticket prices, the largest Lotto 6/49 jackpot was $26.4 million, on September 2, 1995.
The largest Lotto 6/49 jackpot, and the largest single jackpot in Canadian lottery history, was drawn on October 17, 2015 for a jackpot of $64 million. The jackpot was won by one ticket purchased in Mississauga, Ontario. The second largest Lotto 6/49 jackpot, and the second largest jackpot in Canadian lottery history, was $63.4 million on the draw for April 13, 2013.
The third largest Lotto 6/49 jackpot was drawn on October 26, 2005. The single winning ticket, worth $54.3 million, was purchased in Camrose, Alberta by a group of 17 oil and gas plant workers. This was the largest Canadian lottery jackpot up to that time, and a significant increase from the previous record of $37.8 million on a Super 7 lottery draw in 2002—rapid sales created by lottery fever across the country pushed this 2005 Lotto 6/49 jackpot far beyond the originally estimated $40 million.
By comparison, while the Canadian Lotto Max lottery has had a main prize pool as high as $102 million, that lottery sets a cap of $60 million for its main jackpot, with excess "main prize pool" money being applied to a series $1 million MaxMillions prizes on the same draw.
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