Charities 'may lose pounds 200m to lottery'

CHARITIES are likely to lose more than pounds 200m a year in public donations once the Government- backed national lottery is introduced, according to research carried out for voluntary groups, writes Judy Jones.

Legislation setting up the lottery is to be published in the autumn and tickets are due to go on sale by the end of 1994. The launch is likely to trigger a 'very damaging loss of income' without accompanying safeguards for voluntary sector income, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), which represents 600 groups.

The NCVO estimates that pounds 141m in spontaneous donations, such as money paid for raffle tickets and in street collections, will be lost, and that planned gifts, such as membership subscriptions and covenants, will fall by pounds 106m. The annual loss is expected to be 7 per cent of the pounds 3bn currently given by the public to charities.

The projections are based on a National Opinion Poll survey, commissioned by NCVO and published yesterday, which shows the public is divided over what 'very good causes' comprise. Only one in 10 of those surveyed put building an Olympic stadium in Britain in that category, while 85 per cent said that services to elderly and disabled people should be so categorized.

Judy Weleminsky, director of the NCVO, fears people may buy lottery tickets in the belief that they are helping good causes, yet the money may be directed to projects they do not regard as worthwhile. She added: 'A national lottery is only of benefit if it delivers genuinely new money, and not merely replaces cash diverted from existing charities.'