OPINION: We've just gone off the Lotto

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

The great bit in the great British public has never referred to our attention span. Eventually we tire of everything - be it individual politicians, politics itself, celebrities or get-rich-quick schemes. The new Jerusalem quickly becomes yet another gold rush town. Some love affairs we manage to sustain - our marriages, hopefully, and certainly that most enduring national affliction, our love of purchasing property - but for the rest decline is more a question of when rather than if. So Camelot's announcement last week of its worst ever ticket sales - down 10 per cent - should come as no surprise. We've gone off the Lottery.

There has been much finger-pointing by way of explanation. The Daily Mail vendetta against grants made by the Lottery-funded Community Fund has been blamed. So has the gaffe by Camelot's chief executive, Dianne Thompson, when she admitted that most players would be lucky to win a tenner playing the game. This was one of those statements that rang true at some profound level, even if on the surface we preferred to ignore the logic. We know the Lottery won't make us rich, but it is fun briefly pretending. How far the promise that the proceeds go to worthy causes - making it not only fun, but good, clean fun - influenced this latest short-lived national obsession is open to debate? I certainly believe that when the Government started siphoning off Lottery funds for various of its political projects, it polluted hitherto clean water.

So what now? Should there be mass panic in the third sector at the imminent demise of Lottery funds? I think not. Camelot, as we have seen already, won't go down without a fight. And then, there will undoubtedly be a new scheme round the corner. Now that the link with good causes has been made, it's hard to see how any sons-of-Lottery will fail to maintain it. Perhaps the best conclusion to draw is just how fickle the British public is.

So next time someone with an MBA presents you with a minutely plotted fundraising plan that ends in a row of noughts, think Lotto.

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