Fylde coast’s Ernie celebrates 65th anniversary of Premium Bonds draw

The nation’s oldest from of institutionalised gambling, the Premium Bonds, is 65 and still being run from the Fylde coast.

By Tim Gavell
Wednesday, 1st June 2022, 4:55 am

The first Premium Bonds prize draw was held 65 years ago – with the top prize on June 1, 1957 being £1,000.

Ernie (Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment), the machine that generates the winning numbers, has now paid out more than 562 million prizes worth £22.9bn.

Today, the top prize is £1m and June 2022 will see the 781st Premium Bonds prize draw, according to NS&I (National Savings & Investments), which provides the bonds.

A section of the staff at work at the Premium Bonds Headquarters, Moorland Road, St Annes as "Ernie" celebrated his fourth birthday

Jill Waters, NS&I retail director, said: “June is a double celebration with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and 65 years of Premium Bonds draws.

“For 65 years, Premium Bonds draws and Ernie have been a part of people’s lives.

“The sense of anticipation and expectation that rippled across the nation in 1957 is still present among our customers today as they wait with bated breath for the results each month.”

Last week NS&I announced that the Premium Bonds prize fund rate will increase from 1.00 per cent to 1.40 per cent, effective from the June 2022 prize draw.

The minimum purchase nowadays is £25 and adults can purchase bonds for children up to 16.

The first Premium Bond was bought by the then lord mayor of London, Alderman Sir Cuthbert Ackroyd, on November 1 1956, the second was bought by the mayor of St Annes where the first machine was based.

By the end of the first day on sale, more than £5m worth of bonds had been purchased.

There were 49 million bonds eligible for the first draw which handed out 23,142 prizes.

The £1 million Premium Bonds prize was launched in April 1994 and today’s draw on June 1 2022 will see the 483rd and 484th millionaires created by Ernie (Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment).

In December 2006, NS&I made five people millionaires to celebrate 50 years since Premium Bonds went on sale.

The first Ernie was created by a member of the Second World War code-breaking team at Bletchley Park. Ernie 5 is the first incarnation of Ernie to use quantum technology to generate numbers.

On average, it now takes Ernie 5 around 17 minutes to generate the random numbers required for the monthly draw.