OPINION: Lottery cheating puts us all off

PETER STANFORD, a writer and broadcaster. He chaired the trustees of the national disability charity Aspire and now sits on various trustee boards

Rather like the heroine of TV drama At Home With the Braithwaites, I have always planned to use my multi-million pound National Lottery win to set up a charitable foundation and then dispense my largesse to all those causes that get little more than my Christmas card money. There is a technical problem, though. I never buy a lottery ticket. Perhaps having a draw every day, as Camelot is now suggesting, might galvanise me into action, but I somehow doubt it.

So that is my excuse. But why aren't other people buying tickets? It could just be because the chief executive of Camelot told punters that they had not a hope in hell of winning, or that those who have faithfully done the Lottery and never won are just bored. My theory, though, is that we feel cheated over the Lottery. When it started, the official talk was all about the money going to good causes, about how lottery funds would pay for the extras that tax revenue could not cover. For good causes, we read charities.

Under Labour, however, good causes mean a government department. As soon as they were elected, Tony's lot started channelling lottery money into the New Opportunities Fund whose criteria for funding were set according to the party's election manifesto promises on schools, health and employment.

Today, a third of all lottery funding goes through this body to boost public spending. Then there is the Community Fund. Recently, David Blunkett told this supposedly independent body not to fund the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns. Its grant to help asylum seekers didn't wash with the Daily Mail and so the Home Secretary put a stop to it. And under new proposals coming from John Prescott, the Community Fund may be broken up into regional bodies staffed by local councillors, making it in effect a branch of local government.

The Lottery, it seems, has become a form of elective taxation. Declining ticket sales is simply a case of people electing not to pay.

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