The cost of a Lotto gamble doubles. Is this a tax hike on the poor?

Lottery ApologiesThe price of the National Lottery doubles today. The odds of winning the top prize remain the same: 14 million to one.

The price hike is being launched by floating giant balls under the world renowned historic Ironbridge. That’s as tacky as it comes. But the Lotto was always a tacky business that supported good charitable causes.

The BBC is finding itself in an awkward position this morning. On the one hand, it has been dragged into Camelot’s campaign to keep ticket sales up. But on local radio at least, there is coverage of why people gamble and gambling’s negative effects. Yet what I hearing and seeing across the news channels is mostly an unadulterated promotion for the lottery.

Camelot is taking a huge gamble with the price hike. I worry that money for good causes will drop as people take their hopes elsewhere. I fear more that desperation will lead to people spending more than they can afford.

But I hate the argument that the Lotto is a tax on the poor. Why can’t struggling people have hope? Statistical and moral arguments that the money should be spent on essentials cut no ice with me, or those struggling to meet daily needs. The very spirit of being human is that we need hope. That affects the poor most – they have a greater motivational need to find a way out of their desperation. The only hope that George Osborne gives is that life for the poor will be tougher and crueller for people out of work or bumping along the bottom. Give me six numbers any day.

I’d much prefer my struggling neighbours to spend £1 in hope on the Lotto than necking cheap and nasty cider or lager. That £1 option is now being denied to them by Camelot. In doubling the price, it will make paying for Lotto tickets a struggle. I know no one who really hopes to win £10 million. A few hundred thousand will do. Actually £93 (my biggest ever win) helped a lot.

Yes, of course, I’ve spent a lot more than £93 to win that much. But the essence of gambling is hope. I too dream of winning enough to redecorate the flat and clearing off to California to write for a few months.

At exactly 9.30am this morning, those tacky balls will be floating through the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge. At that moment, the romance, the fantasy, the hope that was Camelot and the Lottery will be killed off.

Me? The National Lottery is no longer an attractive flutter. So I’m off to the Health Lottery and consigning Camelot to history. Meanwhile, I have one last Lotto ticket to check…

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk.

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19 Comments

  • Andrew Emmerson 3rd Oct '13 - 9:42am

    At the end of the day it’s been £1 since it was launched nearly 20 years ago. Inflation has eaten much of the worth of that up. An extra £1 a line to £2 is hardly a massive jump, and one increase in all that period is hardly a tax on the poor (Especially because unlike tax it’s entirely voluntary whether you play it or not)

  • Camelot are useless. The lottery is losing players, so what do they do? Put the prices up. Do they want to lose more players? Cos they are going the right way about it.

    Camelot should never have been given the contract to run the lottery again. It should be given over to Richard Branson! The prize money should eb shared out more equally like Branson wanted to do. Instead of having £10m at the top and the second prize being only £100 or whatever it is, there should be more fair distribution if you get 5 numbers and a bonus. Maybe £1m or something.

    Camelot are all about making money. It’s a rip-off. It is also bad economics. Increasing prices does not increase demand!

  • It’s a tax hike on the stupid, since the Lottery itself is merely a voluntary tax on the stupid.

  • Peter Davies 3rd Oct '13 - 11:12am

    Tobacco duty is definitely a tax. The government actually encourages people to avoid paying it.

  • Newsthump have it right:

    “National lottery players set to become twice as stupid”

    http://newsthump.com/2013/01/25/national-lottery-players-set-to-become-twice-as-stupid/

  • nuclear cockroach 3rd Oct '13 - 11:26am

    No harm in the national lottery, as long as it’s treated as a fun way way to donating to certain good causes.

    Doubling the cost, though, is out of order.

  • “Statistical and moral arguments that the money should be spent on essentials cut no ice with me, or those struggling to meet daily needs. The very spirit of being human is that we need hope.”

    A Liberal Democrats membership is only £12, and the odds are slightly better…

  • Richard Dean 3rd Oct '13 - 12:02pm

    Being poor is not well characterized by the well-off’s idea of being without hope.

  • FYI, Richard Desmond’s Health Lottery gives substantially less of its takings to good causes.

  • Is the expectation that the poor “gamble” while the rich “invest”?

    What is the difference between gambling and investing?

  • Paul in Twickenham 3rd Oct '13 - 1:33pm

    If we apply Samuel Johnson’s dictum then a lottery is not a tax on the poor but a tax on the daft.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Oct '13 - 1:37pm

    I have to jump in here. Good question CP. The differences between gambling and investing are not absolute, but there are significant differences.

    My sales point to nudge people away from gambling and into investing is to say that with gambling you are expected to lose but with investing you are expected to win! I received a good comeback to this once when someone said “but if I bet on the favourite then I’m expected to win?” – but this isn’t true because on a risk-adjusted basis you are still expected to lose!

    Now, it is true that sometimes gambling firms misprice risk and sometimes the market also misprices risk, but overall the odds are much more in your favour when investing. It is also true that someone could create a market for bets so people could buy and sell bets, but the odds are still poor – they just get away with it by making it really cheap (low minimum bet) and fill it with novelty and elements of fun.

    Regarding the article: I think what Camelot charges for a non-essential good is up to them, but the government shouldn’t support it in any way.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Oct '13 - 1:59pm

    CP, another reason why gambling firms get so many customers is because gambling is far less regulated than investing, which is manifestly unfair. You can’t recommend an investment to someone without saying “you could lose all your money”, whereas with gambling there is no warning that says “you will probably lose all your money”.

  • The poor get “hope”, the rich get “inheritance”.

  • It used to be that working people got “social security” if they had a bump, but now they have to make-do with “hope” to get by. (Just hope – don’t expect a home or food on the table)

    Those who are so wealthy they don’t need to work get “whatever they buy” to get by.

  • No-one is compelled to play and more money goes to good causes than is the case with the health lottery. While the price of playing has doubled, overall the new regime is more generous, particularly to 3-number winners, where the prize more than doubles to £25. If you entered the lottery twice a week every week for 50 years, you’d expect to win 100 three ball prizes, 5 four ball prizes and nothing else. Under the current scheme you’d win £1300, but would have spent £5000 altogether – a return of 26%. Under Camelot’s new scheme you’d win £3000, but would have spent £10000 – a return of 30%. So the new scheme’s actually slightly better, percentagewise.

    Credit to the diamondgeezer blog for crunching the numbers. : http://diamondgeezer.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/the-two-quid-lottery.html

    Me? A very occasional lucky dip line, certainly when there’s a special extra-prizes draw (like this coming Saturday) or when the jackpot gets unreasonably big.

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