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.
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.