Opinion: A bloody funny way to finance charities

As we await Camelot's coronation for its third licence, does anyone remember its claim - made during the battle to see off Branson's non-profit People's Lottery - that its second term of seven years could (subject to sundry caveats, relaxed rules and other preconditions) raise £15bn for good causes?

Perhaps you recall the National Audit Office report on lottery bidding that revealed Camelot's actual pledge was to raise £12.2bn. Or a past National Lottery Commission chairman suggesting that £10.5bn, equal to Camelot's first term, would be good going in the circumstances?

Forget that; try this: £9.6bn. It comes from a recent Financial Times analysis and is all charities will get if - a big if - present sales of about £5bn a year persist until the current contract ends in 2009. That's £900m below Camelot's first licence figure, £2.6bn less than it predicted and a staggering £5.4bn shy of its anti-Branson rhetoric.

(These figures ignore National Lottery looting by the Olympics, for which, London 2012 hype notwithstanding, no law yet demands our devotion, thank goodness, because the "faster, higher, stronger" motto is surely the very antithesis of many charities' concerns.)

Just weeks remain until Camelot is expected to get another seven-year licence to make money by riding on the back of charities, with the Government's bias so clear that not one serious rival, bar the vain hope of Indian double act Sugal & Damani, has bid against the regime of Camelot chief executive Dianne Thompson.

As Empress of Rollovers, Thompson does all right for herself. She was appointed in 2000 on £330,000. By 2005, her salary and perks reached £654,000. In 2006, her total pay rose 45 per cent - way ahead of any rises in ticket sales or charity funding - to £947,000. It will surely soon surpass £1m a year from the pockets of poor, misguided gamblers.

Incidentally, Camelot's 2006 annual report notes that £109m of good causes cash came from "investment returns", which is not actually its own money but the interest piling up from the £1.9bn of charity cash, more or less, that has been sitting unspent in lottery distributors' vaults.

Raising billions less than hoped under a millionaire boss, propping up the Olympics fund and offering a cash-flow crawl in giving the stuff away - the lottery is still a bloody funny way to finance charities.

- Nick Cater is a consultant, speaker and writer. <a href="mailto:catercharity@yahoo.co.uk">catercharity@yahoo.co.uk</a>.

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