Lottery promises millionaires and museums

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BRITAIN'S first state-regulated national lottery since 1826 will start at the end of 1994, the Government said yesterday.

Tickets will cost no more than pounds 1 and at least pounds 14m of prizes should be on offer every week, with regular pounds 1m prizes. Peter Brooke, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, promised that it would 'create millionaires and museums'.

Downing Street described the lottery as 'the Government's Christmas present to the nation', though with the Chancellor still to pronounce on whether revenue from takings should go to the Exchequer, it could be a present on which tax is paid.

In previous centuries lotteries have created museums - notably the British Museum - and funded a war against the French. The new one will bring Britain into harmony with the rest of Europe; we are the only country without a national lottery.

Once prize money is paid out and administration costs taken care of, up to pounds 1bn a year (based on a possible eventual turnover of pounds 3bn) could be available for good causes, split equally between sport, heritage, charities and a millennium fund.

Speaking after the publication of the National Lottery Bill, Mr Brooke said: 'The lottery will help fund all sorts of projects in villages, towns and cities, from new swimming pools and sports complexes to new theatres and arts centres. It will help improve the fabric of the nation's heritage, and it will aid charitable and other bodies.'

People are to be asked to propose ideas to a new Millennium Commission of the great and the good for projects for 2000.

These could be new arts buildings, such as a national dance house or new museum of modern art, a major sports arena, or as Mr Brooke suggested yesterday, bursaries for young people to do good works. Much is still left to be worked out during the Bill's passage through Parliament.

Mr Brooke said he planned a wide variety of games, from scratch cards with instant prizes to weekly draws for jackpot prizes using computers.

Mr Brooke delivered a slap in the face to the football pools companies which have been lobbying for concessions, such as allowing them to advertise on television, and claiming that a lottery would take gamblers away from the pools.

The pools companies claim that Vernons and Zetters will close after a lottery is established.

Mr Brooke refused to accept this argument: 'Skill is a factor when filling in pools coupons. Lotteries are games of pure chance. The lottery will not attract the gambler. We expect it to attract a new section of the population, people who are willing to have a flutter knowing that, win or lose, money will be going to good causes.'

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations also said 'major safeguards' were needed for the Bill, notably to ensure that no less than 33 per cent of turnover went to good causes, to protect income of charities dependent on small lotteries.

Mr Brooke estimated that turnover could be initially pounds 1.5bn a year, rising to pounds 3bn. Half the money collected would go on prizes, if foreign examples are followed. But it is far harder to say what proportion of the rest will go on good causes and administration, as that depends on how much the Treasury will take in tax.

He said the Government was adamant that lottery proceeds should not be a substitute for normal government funding - although the National Heritage Memorial Fund, which will distribute a fifth of the lottery money, had its annual grant reduced last month from pounds 12m to pounds 8.2m, which many saw as an interesting coincidence.

Mr Brooke ruled out the prospect of lottery money going to rebuild Windsor Castle.

National lottery to be in operation by end of 1994

Weekly prizes worth at least pounds 14m; regular pounds 1m jackpots

Up to pounds 1bn a year for arts, sport, charities and millennium fund

Tickets no more than pounds 1, probably at newsagents and post offices

No decision on whether lottery takings will be taxed

People will be able to suggest projects that need funds

Brooke announcement, page 6

Leading article, page 18