National Lottery

National Lottery
   Britain introduced a national lottery in November 1994, the last country in Europe to do so. The private company Camelot was given a seven-year licence to run the lottery. Tickets are sold through newsagents and post offices. The lottery’s revenues were originally estimated at £14–35m per week but have far exceeded that, reaching around £85m per week (plus £17m from ‘Instants’ scratch cards), and nine out of ten adults are claimed to buy tickets occasionally. The highest win to date was £22.5m, but the odds of winning the jackpot are astronomically poor, at 14 million to one. The bookmakers Ladbrokes have likened the odds to those of Elvis landing a UFO on the Loch Ness Monster. However, the smaller prizes are more winnable. Of the money subscribed, 50 percent goes in prize money, 12 percent in tax, 5 percent to the retailer, 5 percent to Camelot and 28 percent to ‘good causes’. ‘Good causes’ has come to mean the arts, charities, heritage and sport.
   The draw takes place twice weekly, on Wednesday and Saturday. The lottery is arguably popular because it offers the possibility of social change. However, its inception has highlighted potential for social upheaval and division. Predictably, some people have not been able to cope with huge winnings, and many legal cases have centred on breaches of trust among workmates, within families and between friends.
   Complaints against the lottery have come from Church leaders, charities whose revenues have fallen and the football pools, among others. It is argued that people are spending money they cannot afford, that revenues are being diverted from the poor to the rich, and that money is being given to undeserving causes. Partly to assuage these concerns, the government has made some changes, including introducing a sixth ‘good cause’ called the New Opportunities Fund, which concentrates on health and education projects, and creating NESTA (National Endowment for Science and the Arts) to foster arts and science creativity. However, many people feel that these areas should be covered already by core government spending. The government has also introduced a watchdog committee to monitor the spending of lottery money. This was largely prompted by high-profile mismanagement at the Royal Opera House, the subject of the television documentary series The House. Undoubtedly, lottery funds have made a huge impact on the organizations that have received them, at both local and national level, and have in many cases replaced years of underfunding or no funding at all.
   See also: betting shops
   Further reading
    Fitzhurst, L. and Rhoades, L. (1997) The National Lottery Yearbook, London: Directory of Social Change.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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