HIGHER stakes, higher prizes, more winners.
Any gambling organisation using that as an enticement would be subject to close scrutiny. This is not a direct enticement, however, but an announcement by National Lottery operator Camelot that the cost of playing the Lottery will double but more people will share the prizes.
The rationale for the price jump from £1 to £2 is not clear. Although it has been £1 since the first draw in November 1994, sales of tickets have increased by 35% since 2002 and the number of players has grown by 12% in the past five years. The changes are being made despite the highest ever half-year National Lottery sales in the second half of 2012.
However, Camelot's UK managing director says the games need re-energised. Together, the increase from £10 to £25 for matching three numbers, higher average jackpots and a raffle with 50 prizes of £20,000 in each draw are likely to prove an incentive.
If it means more people buy a ticket, it will increase the fund available for good causes. A minimal increase in the odds of winning a prize, however, is just as likely to tempt people who can ill afford the outlay to buy extra tickets.
By delivering more than £29 billion since its launch in 1994, the National Lottery has supported an astonishing array of good causes from major arts events and heritage buildings to enabling countless charities and voluntary groups to carry out projects to benefit their local area. The success of British athletes at the London Olympics and Paralympics was due in no small part to lottery funding, which additionally contributed almost £2.2 billion to the events.
The £29 billion raised for good causes in just over 18 years has benefited communities the length and breadth of the country. Every public library in the UK is now online due to lottery funding. That is an example of the additional money providing facilities that were over and above the basic provision from local authorities and public bodies. In the early years there were disputes over whether lottery money was being used for what ought to have been core public services funded by the state. As local government cuts take effect, is there a danger the lottery could be used to bail out cash-strapped councils?.
A much greater concern, however, must be that the lottery, portrayed as a cheap, light-hearted flutter which is also a donation to good causes, has given gambling respectability. It has certainly made it more accessible, with a machine in almost every corner shop and supermarket. The televised draws, and advertisements, brought the lottery into the living room and opened the door to reducing restrictions on other forms of gambling. Changes such as extending betting shop opening hours and lowering age restrictions have increased problem gambling in the UK, with almost 1% of the population addicted to gambling. There is a risk doubling the price of a lottery ticket will increase that problem.
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