National lottery exploits poor, new report shows

The National Lottery is  a bad deal for Britain's poor, according to a new report launched today by the theology think tank Theos.

The report reveals that people in Britain's lowest socio-economic groups are more likely to play the lottery than their more affluent counterparts, but  are less likely to benefit from lottery funding.

Based on polling undertaken by ComRes and an analysis of existing research, the study finds that people in  manual or semi-skilled jobs are significantly more likely to play scratch cards than their counterparts in higher or intermediate managerial or  administrative professional jobs;  (34% and 25%, compared with 20% and 18% respectively, playing once a month or more). Those in receipt of state benefits are more likely to play scratch cards (26%) than those who are not (22%).

Poorer respondents are the most likely to play draw-based games, with over 67% of interviewees in this category participating once a month or more, compared with 47% of wealthier more educated people in professional

Spending on scratch cards is higher among lower socio-economic groups: skilled manual workers  spend £70.60 per year, while higher or intermediate managerial or  administrative professionals spend £40.64 per year, and the average across the whole sample is £44.18.

On average, people who earn less than £20,000 spend £55.39 per year on scratch cards, compared with the national average of £44.18.

Spending is, therefore, considerably higher as a proportion of income in lower income categories (i.e., the average annual spend, £44.18, equates to 0.2% of the income of a household earning £25,000 but 0.4% of the income of a household bringing in

On average, people spend £142.88 on draw-based games annually. Those earning £15,000-20,000 per year have an average annual stake of £174.53.

Looking  at frequent players of draw-based games, those earning £15,000-£20,000 per year have an average weekly stake of £6.73 (£349.96 pa or at least 1.74% of annual household income), the same as respondents with a household income of over £75,001 per year £349.96 pa or less than 0.47% of annual household income);

Skilled manual workers and  semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers or those on state benefits are the most committed Lottery players, 28% of whom, in each case, say that a reduction in the maximum prize money or withdrawing funding from local projects would not prevent them playing the National Lottery.

The research not only examines Lottery spending, but also where Lottery funding is distributed. Insufficient funding is being invested back into Britain's deprived communities, it claims. For example, Blaenau Gwent is the poorest area in the UK, having the highest average IMD score of 67.50. However, it ranks only 133rd when it comes to the amount of lottery funding it receives. Bridgend is ranked second using the IMD index but only 224th in terms of the amount of lottery funding it receives.

Commenting on the research, Paul Woolley, Director of Theos, said: "This research adds to a growing body of evidence which shows that Lottery players come from poorer backgrounds. They also spend significantly more, especially as a proportion of their household income, than more affluent players.
"National Lottery distributors have an obligation to ensure that all parts of the country have fair access to funds and that awards should be made with a view to reducing economic and social deprivation. In reality, Lottery funding across all the streams – arts, sports, heritage and charitable expenditure – is insufficiently targeted on the communities
that need it most.

"The Lottery might have created a new source of funding for projects that would otherwise have remained un-funded, but this has come with a high price tag for Britain's poor. This is about social justice. If the Lottery is to continue, it is essential that a greater proportion of funding is invested back into the communities from which it is taken.

"The old argument that the National Lottery is a 'tax' on the poor for the benefit of the middle classes may have some justification."

Theos is a public theology think tank. It was launched in November 2006 with the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.


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