Opinion: Time to demand a simpler, fairer lottery

Nick Cater, a consultant and writer: catercharity@yahoo.co.uk

Expectation, anticipation? Forget Christmas jollity and enjoy the exciting last few weeks before Camelot and its rivals must bid to continue to profit from the National Lottery, and from gamblers who are too greedy or stupid to understand odds.

It's a good time to reconsider the birth and life of the National Lottery - conceived by hubris-laden Tories, a sibling of the Dome, suckled by principles-free New Labour - and ask if there wasn't, and might still be, a better way.

A better way, perhaps, than the bureaucracy created and reshuffled to receive funds, define rules, process applications and monitor payments.

A better way than the application process, its paperwork and pitfalls.

And a far better way than interfering Government ministers and elbow-jogging business types.

Inevitably, because politicians cannot be trusted with power or money, the lottery proved a political football, with charities and causes that dared to help the most vulnerable being kicked around the pitch by the likes of David Blunkett.

The meddling of this Sun columnist in the making legitimised the rabid baying of a tabloid press that prefers charities devoted to cuddly animals and tragic kids to anything with a point of view.

Meanwhile, are you miffed at how a good-causes lottery increasingly seems to exist to spend money beyond the charity world and enhance fiscal reputations by cutting millions or billions off government spending on everything from libraries to the Olympics? Prepare now for lottery looting on a vast scale to meet the soaring true cost of the 2012 Games.

For a straighter path, let's try matching funding to existing charities' support and effort. The £19bn for good causes so far paid over by lottery gamblers could have given every active charity in the UK somewhere between £90,000 and £100,000 each. Or in the 12 years since the National Lottery began, it could have given the tiddlers on less than £10,000 an extra £1,000 a year, leaving a useful £17.6bn to be shared among the bigger charities.

The best solution would seem to be handing that out as a percentage of the previous year's income - based on accounts submitted and accepted on time, naturally - in 'free', non-earmarked money.

Not just simple, fair, cheap, efficient, democratic, transparent and logical, but an escape from the chaotic and costly complexity of a politicised system whose capricious manipulation the charity world endures today with far too little complaint.

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