Our rulers don’t seem to care that the National Lottery fleeces the poor

3 October 2013

Now the latest on the Politicians Keeping In Touch front. It’s funny how it’s the wives who take the brunt of the endeavour. It was Samantha Cameron yesterday who had to parade at the Tory party conference in a teal £42 polyester dress from…no question, then, of Mr Cameron being asked to take a turn in an M&S suit. Alas, Mrs C did what every sensible person does who has to wear something from Asos or Florence and Fred (and may I say, given their modest cut when it comes to fabric only skinnies can carry this off) and replaced their belt with one of her own. It was a matter of minutes before the eagle-eyed girls in the fashion departments of our finest newspapers outed this slim black number as from Emilia Wickstead, retailing at £196. Which may or may not cancel out the fact her shoes came from TopShop. Funny that: Miriam Clegg wore TopShop shoes too for her husband’s big day, only with a Zara dress – so in touch!

How things change: it seems like only yesterday that Sarah Brown and Sam Cam were doing their bit at party conference in chic pieces from Erdem or Rifat Ozbek — Turkish-British designers who emphatically do not retail for £42. One can only hope that Asos doesn’t turn out to be one of those companies that contract out their manufacturing to companies in countries with below-par working conditions, because that wouldn’t be a good look at all.

We’ve already put politicians — the London Mayor, the PM, the Deputy PM — through their paces on the usual questions of how much a pint of milk costs (depends whether you’re buying organic) and how much a value loaf is (and is there anyone who actually thinks that Samantha Cameron is going to be eating carbs in the way of Tesco Value White Sliced?), the sole effect of which will be that they’ll send their researchers out to Sainsbury to check out these things before they get interviewed by anyone in future. But the gist of all this isn’t completely frivolous…it’s to discern whether the issue that matters to people on an average income, the rising cost of living, has registered with those who manage the economy. As I mentioned previously, people like John Major did take inflation much more seriously than ministers do now, simply because he came from a background where the cost of things mattered: he said as much quite recently.


Yet, funnily enough, one thing none of the party leaders was asked was the price of a lottery ticket, though perhaps that might have been more pertinent. That’s gone up today by 100 per cent, from one pound for a line to two. Which doesn’t really matter for players on above average incomes but which makes quite a big difference to the poorest players…and Lottery players are disproportionately drawn from those least able to afford it. (A 2008 study in the US showed the poorest players spend almost 10 per cent of their disposable income on tickets.)

Yet the proportion of prize money the National Lottery pays out is not actually increasing, at just under half its takings. Also the odds of winning the jackpot are unchanged at one in 13,983,816, though the advent of a new Lottery Raffle with £20,000 prizes means that it’s less rotten value than it would otherwise be. There has obviously been a backlash from poorer punters, at least those with access to the internet: a poll for the Daily Mirror suggests nine in 10 are angry enough to say they’ll boycott the thing as a result; they won’t, of course.

The National Lottery has been described as a tax on the poor, which makes sense only if you think of tax as a voluntary affair. But it is a form of gambling which looms especially large in the lives of the poor. As the late Auberon Waugh (a fan) observed, it is a way of bringing the element of existential hope into otherwise dreary lives. Of course, as I never tire of telling my children, you’d be better off betting on the horses — and after two visits to Leopardstown they’re shaping up nicely in that respect. But the fact is that the advertising, the propaganda, works: people really do think it could be them.

National Lottery ticket prices haven’t gone up since the inception of the thing in 1994 but inflation has, just not by 100 per cent, not quite. What you could have bought for a quid back then you pay £1.67 for now. So wouldn’t it have been fairer, kinder, to have gone for, say, a 50 per cent increase, to raise the price of a line to £1.50 instead? The Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, has let it be known that she was kept closely in touch with the latest developments. Did it not occur to her to suggest to Andy Duncan, the Camelot MD, that an increase of 100 per cent was excessive? Whatever happens, the Treasury gets a cut of 12 per cent on Lottery takings – just short of £700 million in 2010/11. It wouldn’t hurt for ministers to register disquiet at the punters being so blatantly fleeced even if the proceeds do help pay for the Olympics. It would at least serve the important purpose of showing how very in touch they are.

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  • Venables Chris

    I sure a lot o poor people waste money on lottery, so do some rich people

  • Venables Chris

    Utter rubbish if you don’t want to buy you don’t have too.

  • CaptainDallas

    Come on, now! This government does indeed set out to hammer the poor, but protesting about an entirely voluntary activity is feeble stuff. Nobody ever bought a lottery ticket because they had a gun pointed at their head…

  • grammarschoolman

    Well, the point of tax is to fleece the earners in order to featherbed the lazy, so it’s jolly good that this redresses the balance.

  • La Fold

    come out to a pub up my neck of the woods and youll see these ” poor and vulnerable” sections of society scoofing overpriced lager and shoving coke up their schnozes all night.
    And the thing is the coke has had more cuts than a butchers shop too.
    Are Los Zetas charging the poor too much for their ching?

  • rtj1211

    There’s nothing wrong with the poor spending the most on the National Lottery if most of the beneficiaries of NL money are benefitting poor communities.

    The real disgrace comes if the poor are funding the hooray henrys in the SE.

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    It’s gone up to two quid a line.. somebody remarked earlier on BBC radio. For a moment i wondered what they were on about..

  • manonthebus

    Isn’t the Lottery a tax on stupidity?

    • GeeBee36_6

      My favourite definition of the lottery is that it is a tax on people who are extremely bad at arithmatic

    • Petra Thompson

      I was once tempted to do the lottery. Went into a shop to fill out the tickety thing, and found I couldn’t understand the instructions. I like to believe I was over-interpreting them and reading to much nuance into the terms. But maybe there are people like me who are so stupid we are saved from ourselves.

  • anncalba

    Oh come on! In my local co-op any day of the week, you can see people spending £10 or £15 pounds on lottery tickets, and much the same on scratch cards. Without putting too fine a point on it, they are mostly from the local social housing, and spending some of their state hand outs on buyng into a dream. They can’t afford decent food, but can spend money on the lottery? Ill educated, well-fare dependant, is that the Lottery’s fault?

    • terregles2

      Amazing what you can tell from people standing in a queue. I work in an office with about one hundred and twenty other people. Every week we all throw in 25p each and I buy £30 worth mixture of lottery tickets and scratch cards. Any winnings we put into the social committee funds.
      Hope that nobody standing behind me thinks I am in squandering any state benefits.

      • anncalba

        You and your colleagues contribute 25p a week, less than the price of a bag of crisps. you colleagues who work in an office. So, I guess you and your 120 colleagues are not living on state benefits. The folk in my local tatty co-op are mostly pensioners and young mums with kids in buggies, mid week, not at work. I don’t think anything they win goes into social committee funds.

        Terregles – near Dumfries, isn’t it?Nice little middle class enclave.

        • Kennybhoy

          Ouch! lol

        • terregles2

          You are making assumptions again Terregles is indeed an attractive place but I did not choose the moniker because I live there quite the reverse.
          If you see pensioners buying lottery tickets chances are they might not spend as much money per week as other people do on clothes,make-up,,going to the theatre,restaurants,concerts etc. The mums with kids might work evenings or part-time. They may or may not . They may have a partner who earns money.The point is you just don’t know yet you sneer at them and make a sweeping assertion.
          I am surprised that you even go inside your local tatty co-op it certainly can’t be to socialise.
          You should remember that when you point the finger at other people three of your fingers are pointing back at you.

          • anncalba

            Wow! I am quite sure the pensioners and others I see in my local co-op (small town, few alternatives!) do not , as you say “spend as much money per week as other people do on clothes, make up, going to the theatre, restaurants, concerts etc.” Is this what you and your 120 office working colleagues do? Not sure what your point is? I’m a pensioner, don’t spend much on concerts and the theatre (chance would be a fine thing in rural Scotland).

            You are now making sweeping generalisations about me, fingers point, as the old cliche you trot out says.

            • terregles2

              If you are a pensioner I am surprised that you find fault with other pensioners buying lottery tickets. I did not at any point say that you went to the theatre spent money on clothes or make up etc. I said that some people spend more on clothes makeup etc than the pensioners in the queue. I never suggested that you were one of them I said some people. I did not make any sweeping assertions about you or anyone else.
              My point was that you were denigrating pensioners for wasting money on lottery tickets.If you are a pensioner you will know that many of your generation worked hard and paid tax for decades. If pensioners want to spend some of their hard earned money on lottery tickets who are we to criticise.?

        • Petra Thompson

          An elderly pensioner friend of mine does the lottery. The man retired with more savings than anyone else I’ve ever heard of. He didn’t have a high-powered job, but he started work in an office at 16 and stayed there to 65. He was quite frugal with himself (always v. generous to his friends).

          In addition to his final salary pension, 15 years or so ago he told me he had £300,000 in some investment account.

          You could be standing behind him. He shops in Lidl and Aldi mostly.

          • Venables Chris

            I’m sure there are a lot of ordinary folks with £300k it’s not a fortune in today’s world

            • Alexandrovich

              Would you describe yourself as ‘in touch’?

              • Venables Chris

                Yes I do sorry

          • disqus_KdiRmsUO4U

            That could have been me

            And I ride a 600 cc m/bike

            Sorry it wasnt me I have no friends and wouldnt be generous to them if I did

  • Agrippina

    I only minded when we had to pay for the Churchill archive from his grandson so that he could pay off his wife. The late PM’s papers belonged to the nation.

    • GeeBee36_6

      Oh – so they ‘belonged to the nation’ eh?

      How does that work then – private property suddenly being confiscated ‘for the good of the nation’?

      A metaphor for socialism and all its works if ever I heard one.

  • ADW

    Are they really being fleeced? It’s up to them if they want to chuck money down the drain. I suppose it gives existential hope, as Waugh says. But there’s no rationality to the equation. I did like Homer Simpson’s answer when Marge said the odds are about 500 billion to one – “wrong! 500 billion to _three hundred_, cause I bought three hundred tickets …”

  • La Fold

    So by your reckoning the turf accountants should be offering the poor bigger odds on horses then because it would be more fair?
    Or do you like the nags cause usually the only time you see any of the plebs is when you snigger at them at Ladies days at Epsom?

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    Y’know, sometimes people are selling things with a clear idea of what the product is, and other people buy them at the price they are offered. OK? So why should other people, third parties, have an opinion on how the second kind of people need protecting from the first, because it’s not fair?

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