A national disgrace

by Richard on January 21, 2013

Terence Blacker on the National Lottery

The Lottery is a living example of how an apparently innocent idea – premium bonds on steroids – can rot a culture from within. To those who are trapped in their lives, it has offered the illusion that their existence can be transformed. In a cash-obsessed society, it holds out the possibility of an unthinkably large windfall. Then, to sweeten the pill still further, there is the heart-warming idea that, with every bet, gamblers are helping “good causes”. The charade is glamorised along the way by pearly-toothed celebrities.

The result is a society in which the malign influence of the Lottery can been seen at every turn. It is there in the something-for-nothing culture, from wealthy bonus-pluckers at the top of the financial pile to the people Cameron likes to call “skivers” at the bottom.

When bankers and hedge-fund managers help themselves to an absurd and undeserved bonus, there may be protests in the press and online from “ordinary, working people” but the guilty parties are unlikely to take them seriously. After all, when the week’s lucky Lottery winner makes his or her millions – unearned in that case – it is the same newspapers and those ordinary people who treat it all as a wonderful feel-good story.

Thanks to David Keen for the link. who adds

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.

I couldn’t agree more - that the lottery is an evil influence has been my view for a long time. The only thing I’d want to add is that we shouldn’t underestimate the effect that the lottery has on people’s perception of probability. The chances of winning a significant prize are vanishingly small, yet many otherwise rational and intelligent people buy their tickets religiously (and I use the word deliberately) on the grounds that “you’ve got to be in it to win it”. The effect of this undermining may be subtle, but I believe that it is very real. The truth is that almost anything you can think of to spend your hard-earned on is likely to make a vastly greater return than wasting it on a lottery ticket and millions regularly set aside their education for a “flutter” because “you never know”.

The National Lottery is deeply corrosive. It’s time it was scrapped.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }


phillip mutchell 01.21.13 at 5:02 pm

It’s not exactly unearned though is it as each contributes an amount in the hope of winning the prize, wouldn’t you do better to use it as a model of grace - that pound’s-worth of faith secures the jackpot of eternal life - believe.


Mark Byron 01.21.13 at 8:43 pm

Phillip-That would be true if only one person a week were saved, but one would hope the rate a bit higher.

Lotteries are an odd coalition of libertarian and big-government; it’s cast as a painless way to raise money, usually “for the children” (it’s usually cast as a school-funding vehicle here in the US) that keeps taxes lower and keeps the teacher’s unions happy. However, it’s the poor that don’t understand the 50-cents-on-the-dollar payoff rate (or have an “I’d blow it anyway” mentality) that suffer, as Richard well notes.


Kim 01.21.13 at 10:09 pm

Agreed … And churches getting lottery funding?


Richard 01.21.13 at 11:19 pm

Phillip - I disagree absolutely and without reservation! The lottery offers no model of grace.

Mark - You’re right. And I don’t understand why there hasn’t been more fuss from the Left about the lottery.

Kim - I deliberately avoided that can of worms! One of the things I resent most about the lottery is the way that it has come to dominate charitable grant-making. It is very difficult to raise money from any grant-making bodies without also going to the lottery: many will make a lottery application part of the deal. So not going for lottery funding would cut church projects off from many other sources of funding. Even so, I’m uncomfortable with how easily the church has come to terms with the lottery. I’d be tempted to say that the church should take an absolute stand and refuse all lottery funds, but you might remind me of it when I’m a Superintendent again!


Kim 01.22.13 at 3:07 pm

Right, so it’s “realism”, is it? The Christian philosophy that, for example, tells us that we can’t really be expected to follow the Sermon on the Mount, now can we? No, we’ve got to compromise with the way the world does business. Being “uncomfortable” is not good enough. At the very least you should be plagued by the inexorable guilt of disobedience and cheap grace! ;)


Rick O'Donnell 01.22.13 at 11:49 pm

Pragmatism, ain’t it wonderful!
Covers some of our ‘venial’ sins rather well… :-)


Mark Byron 01.25.13 at 8:26 pm

Here’s a post on lotteries and the poor from a conservative blog friend of mine, “…people who played the lottery with an income of less than $20,000 annually spent an average of $46 per month on lottery tickets. That comes out to more than $550 per year and it is nearly double the amount spent in any other income bracket.”

That’s not helpful.

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