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07/03/2003 Entry: "Lottery"

The BBC reports that the National Lottery is due for a shake up. Many are now bored of the lottery, it is claimed.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell is to unveil plans for a shake-up of the National Lottery after several years of declining sales. In a White Paper to be published on Thursday, it is expected that different companies will be given the chance to run lottery games and the public will get more say over which good causes should benefit.
I'm not at all a fan of the Lottery. Here's what I wrote for a church magazine a little while ago:
I seem to have been involved in a number of conversations about the ‘National Lottery’ recently and I’ve been surprised about the wide range of opinion about it. My view is no secret: I regard the Lottery as an evil influence and wish that it could be scrapped, although I am realistic enough to know that it will not be. Why do I think this way? Briefly . . .1. The lottery encourages greed. We see this by how many extra tickets are sold when there is a large rollover jackpot. There may be one or two exceptional souls whose only thought is how much good they could do if they won, but for most the chance of a fortune is irresistible.2. The lottery appeals to gullibility. Have you studied the odds of winning a jackpot? One in fourteen million! (OK, Alan. 1 in 13,983,816). You are much more likely to be struck by lightning than to choose the right numbers, but how many people would bet on that?3. The lottery overstates its charitable contribution. It is unarguable that the charity makes massive donations to ‘good causes’. It is also undeniable that these sums are a a small percentage of the lottery’s turnover, giving a veneer of generosity to an industry which is an exploitation of greed. If you seriously want to give to charity, cut out all the middlemen and give directly.4. The lottery is effectively becoming a religion. Don’t believe me? Then listen to the language of the lottery broadcasts; “It could be you”, “The Lottery prayer”. See the fervour of the gathered crowd. Listen as the great deeds of the Lottery are recounted. Numbers are given personalities (“That’s the second time this year no. 14 has put in appearance”), and even serious newspapers are printing lists of how often numbers have come up, as though that has any relevance to future events. “Religion” is the guide to where people put their ultimate trust, and for many today the lottery fulfils that role.
Some things have changed since then, and the lottery has lost most of its "religious" language -- either that, or I've stopped noticing. But in some ways, I find that more disturbing still. The Lottery has become so much a part of our national life that its existence is unquestioned and the multi-million pound prizes are taken for granted. But underneath this now-treasured institution is a bedrock of avarice and greed which no amount of "image management" can change. The lure of instant gratification and enrichment is powerful, but in the end can we really afford to build on such a foundation?


Hear, hear, Richard.

Posted by Wood @ 07/03/2003 10:14 AM CST

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