Money: Hey big spender! Are you a Geordie?

People from Tyneside spend pounds 3.15 a week on the National Lottery. Clifford German asks why
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The Independent Online
Did you know that Geordies gamble an average pounds 3.15 a week on the National Lottery, a good 25 per cent above the national average, and they are followed by residents of the Border TV region, who spend an average of pounds 2.75 a week? Exactly why this should be so is clearly not a simple question, since Geordies may be financially insecure, but the rural borderers should have less to worry about in that respect than most other regions.

At the other end of the scale, the inhabitants of South-west England, from Dorset down to Cornwall, spend just pounds 2.03 a week, which may have something to do with the remains of a non-conformist tradition. But this will not explain why south of Englanders are the next lowest spenders with pounds 2.27 each, or why relatively affluent Londoners spend only pounds 2.33, and the canny Lowland Scots spend pounds 2.47 and the even cannier Highlanders pounds 2.38.

One day, theses will be written about the mentality of National Lottery players. The basic appeal of the lottery is glaringly obvious. Although the odds are among the poorest available to gamblers, with 50 per cent of the weekly stake siphoned off by good causes, the Treasury, ticket- sellers and the lottery's operators, the lure of a multi-million pound jackpot is irresistible, however long the odds.

The widespread national sense of insecurity nowadays means that the prospect of a jackpot win which will, at a stroke, abolish all the winner's worries about unemployment, and the need for life insurance, health insurance, mortgages, pensions and long-term care plans is even more attractive than it would have been in the palmy days of full employment and the all-embracing welfare state.

But regional and social differences among punters are still very strong. Sociologists would say that the fact that the biggest spenders on the National Lottery are in social class C2, which stakes an average pounds 2.67 a week on the lottery, is exactly what we might expect. They are members of the social class which statistics show has most to fear from unemployment, but currently has some spare cash to gamble with.

The next highest spenders are in Classes D and E, who toss away pounds 2.48 a week, but that could simply be a function of them having even more insecurity but a little less spare cash. Class C1 spends pounds 2.42 a week, and classes A and B just pounds 2.32, although whether this reflects the lesser pressure on the better off to try and escape from insecurity or a better understanding of the odds against winning is a sensitive issue.

Age groups are equally revealing. The lottery habit is least prevalent among young adults aged between 16 and 24, but remains relatively constant among the rest of the working population, (although there is a slight peak in the 45-54 age group) and dips slightly among pensioners. It probably means that the young and the old have less money to spare than the middle age groups. But could it mean the young still think they can make it on their own, pensioners are resigned to their lot in life, and it is the middle-aged who are most desperate to escape from their lifestyle?