Monday, January 21, 2013

The National Lottery: pet parasite of the nation.

It's amazing how quickly we come to regard institutionalised sin as part of the national furniture:

There are those who claim that to argue against a pastime which gives moments of pleasure in ordinary lives is elitist and snobbish. The truth is the very opposite. It is the Lottery which is the ultimate in social divisiveness. The poor make regular contributions to the rich; in return, one out of many millions will be rewarded and held up as an example of the good fortune which could befall any of them. Could there be a more cynical form of elitism?
If Conservatives truly believed in the importance of work and the market, they would oppose the National Lottery. If those on the left disapproved of exploitation of the vulnerable, their position would be the same. Yet in politics and in the media, it is given a free ride.
Camelot has announced that the Lottery is being revamped. Its central message will, of course, remain unchanged. Your life can be transformed by greed and gambling.
more here
As reported last week, Camelot are doubling the price that Lotterites will have to pay for their weekly fix, offset by rises in payouts to the miniscule number who actually win. Did you notice the big national debate that kicked off? Me neither, with the above article being one of the exceptions.
Gambling is a cancer on the poor, sucking most money out of the most deprived communities. A local set of shops in one of the less prosperous parts of  Yeovil has seen several businesses and retailers fail, yet the bookies carries on. The gambling industry has been strangely immune to the recession, with year on year increases almost across the board even since the banking crash. . 
Meanwhile some of the MPs who are supposed to scrutinise this are in the pay of the gambling industry. One  bad but possibly credible argument for raising MPs salaries is that it will make them harder for vested interests to buy, but with several billion to play with I can see the gaming industry comfortably outbidding whatever salary we give our legislators. Government statistics show that problem gambling has increased, despite the recession, yet what's happening to address this? At least the Camelot price hike might put a few more people off the gateway drug of the Lottery, though I doubt this has come high in their considerations. 
The gambling industry is a parasite, and the Lottery is its equivalent of bread and circuses. If the BBC can devote prime hours each week to promoting the Lottery, then don't expect them to host a national debate on its merits. That's going to have to come from somewhere else, but we have to have it. 


  1. I've never played the Lottery, never been in a bookies and can't remember how many decades it is since I put money in a slot machine.

    But I wonder how much the regular Lottery players consider their purchase to be a donation to a good cause? After all, that's the main reason (I think) that it was introduced. Of course it would be better if they gave all of the money straight to charity, but that's not such a glamorous proposition.

    I googled for a survey about why people play the Lottery, but nothing much came up. But I found this interesting:

    A snapshot of what a spectrum of people think about the Lottery.

    I think betting on sport is slightly different, in that it is a game of skill, and people (in some cases, generally those who can afford to lose) see it as paying for the opportunity to play.

    That doesn't make it any less damaging, though.

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