The study claims John Major's pledge last September that the lottery revenue should lead to "a higher quality of life for millions of people, irrespective of income" was not being fulfilled.
"The activities and pursuits being funded are not the ones that, at present, attract as high a proportion of poor people as those who are better off," it says.
The Labour Party has pledged to give more lottery money to good causes, cutting the profits of the operators, Camelot. Shadow heritage spokesman, Chris Smith, told Granada's World in Action being broadcast tonight that the money being made by Camelot's directors was "astonishing". Describing the running of the lottery as "money for old rope", he said it should go to a non-profit making organisation when Camelot's seven-year contract expires.
The Rowntree report says that despite the Prime Minister's commitment, the distributing bodies - which have an income of around pounds 300m each a year - are in danger of allowing the lottery to become yet another example of the British tradition of milking the poor to pay for the hobbies of the rich.
It claims the commitment by the funding bodies to "wider access" centre on an emphasis on removing physical barriers for disabled people rather than economic ones faced by the poor.
One problem is poor areas are submitting too few applications. In May the Sports Council warned: "Projects in the inner cities, especially in London, are not coming forward."
Analysis by the Rowntree Foundation, an independent body which funds research into housing, social care and social policy, shows that the poorest areas have so far won the least money for sport. Just one of the 91 grants made by the time the report was finished went to an area ranked among the poorest tenth in England. It was for pounds 390,000 to the Northumberland Lawn Tennis Association for indoor tennis courts in Newcastle.
The poorest areas are "at a permanent disadvantage" by the requirement to put up partnership funding in order to win grants, says the study. "This can sometimes come close to saying that further help can only be given to those already blessed with substantial resources."
The report, Winners and Losers: The impact of the National Lottery, also warns that apart from the charity sector, the areas chosen by the government for lottery support are enjoyed most by the richest.
"The decision to fund activities like art, sport and heritage was taken for good reasons, but these tend to be the interests and activities of the relatively comfortable rather than, say, health or education which concern everyone," it observes.
The statement is borne out by analysis by the British Market Research Bureau which showed that the highest socio-economic groups play more sport and visit more beauty spots and stately homes than the lowest groups.
The Rowntree report also reveals that the "good causes" are not necessarily gaining new money from the lottery. Capital funding for sport from local authorities has sunk from pounds 300m in 1989-90 to pounds 125m in 1992-93, according to Sports Council figures. Similarly, capital funds for leisure and recreation in England and Wales have been cut by the government from pounds 481m in 1989- 90 to pounds 271m in 1993-94.
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