Ulster tops league of big lottery spenders

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The Independent Online
The people of Northern Ireland spend more money on National Lottery tickets than anyone else in the country - almost double the amount spent by Londoners, new figures reveal.

Spending in Ulster on tickets and Camelot scratchcards between November 1994 and the end of March this year averaged pounds 137.76 per person, as opposed to only pounds 77.96 spent per head by people in the capital, the lowest regional figure. However, when it comes to grants from lottery funds, the positions are reversed, and Northern Ireland has one of the lowest regional totals of grants per pounds spent: pounds 13.70, compared to pounds 69.50 for London

The lottery operator Camelot declared itself baffled by the high Ulster spending, revealed in new figures released by the regulator Oflot, to Hugh Bayley, Labour MP for York and a campaigner for greater distribution of grant to the regions.

Several explanations suggest themselves for Ulster's high spending: that the Irish Republic's own longstanding national lottery has perhaps created a lottery culture, as has, arguably, the finest Irish traditions of gambling. If the disadvantaged spend a disproportionate sum on lottery tickets, then Ulster's economic troubles alone could account for the lottery's appeal.

The statistics have fuelled the criticism that London receives a disproportionately large amount of lottery money in grants.

Mr Bayley's own area, Yorkshire and Humberside, spent pounds 107.11 per person but received back 13.7p of the money spent. He said: "The lottery is a great success but the punters who spend most on tickets are being robbed of their fair share of grants to good causes. Londoners may think they deserve big pay outs because of the national institutions in the capital, but there are national museums outside London like the Royal Armouries in Leeds and the National Railway museum in York.

"There is a perception among the people dishing out the grants that what matters is in London. If they bothered to travel north of Watford they would find that two-thirds of the country's history, sport and culture is outside the capital."

Figures: Region-spend per head of population, and grant awarded to region (in pence) per pound spent.

Northern Ireland pounds 137.76 13.7p

Eastern Region pounds 125.65 10.2p

South East pounds 122.67 14.6p

Merseyside pounds 110.44 12.4p

Wales pounds 108.35 42.5p

West Midlands pounds 108.26 13.8p

Yorks & Humber pounds 107.11 19.9p

North West pounds 102.46 24.7p

Scotland pounds 100.36 30.0p

South West pounds 99.94 13.0p

East Midlands pounds 97.81 9.1p

North East pounds 78.70 24.3p

London pounds 77.96 69.5p