Lottery sales total pounds 4.5bn in first year

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The Independent Online

The luckiest place to live in Britain is the Midlands if you want to win the National Lottery, while the players least likely to win the jackpot are based in Wales and Northern Ireland, according to research conducted for the first anniversary of the game.

The National Lottery, which has taken pounds 4.5bn in sales in its first year, celebrated its unprecedented commercial success yesterday. But lottery organisers also acknowledged it has attracted an equally forceful barrage of controversy for allegedly encouraging gambling.

Although the survey found 89 per cent of people "approve" of the National Lottery, 40 per cent did not agree that it is "a harmless flutter", and nearly a third did not agree that it was a "really good thing for the country".

Among the most outspoken critics is the Church of England. Yesterday, the Rt Rev David Sheppard, the Bishop of Liverpool, called for an investigation into the lottery. "Gambling is being encouraged and artificially stimulated," said the bishop. "The scratch cards are driving a coach and horse through all the rules of gambling."

David Rigg, communications director of Camelot, the lottery operator, confirmed that Gamblers Anonymous had a 17 per cent increase in calls from worried members of the public. Camelot is to co-fund research into the impact of the lottery with an independent organisation.

Forty per cent play the lottery because they find it fun. But a quarter, mostly in the 16-34 age group, are "big prize dreamers" who play for the jackpot.

More than 130 millionaires have been created by the lottery in its first year, with 20 winning over pounds 5m and six winning over pounds 10m. The highest number of winners, by television region, have come from the East, West and South Midlands, where there have been 53 jackpot claims, followed by 50 in London. Only 13 claimed jackpots in Wales.

While Wales accounts for 95 per cent of the national average sales, it has only 67 per cent of the national average of winnings. Scotland has 94 per cent of sales, on an average population basis, but only 86 per cent of the winnings. The luckier regions include the South-west, which has 90 per cent of sales, but 113 per cent of winnings.

Camelot said that they would be extending the game over the next few years of their licence to sustain interest. They are considering a separate mid-week lottery draw and more complex scratch cards.

"The mid-week draw is one of the options we have, but there are lots of other games we are looking at too," said Tim Holley, chief executive of Camelot. "We are want to keep sales at the same level, or with a slow level of growth."

The average weekly spend on the lottery is pounds 2.33. Members of social group C2 have the biggest flutter, spending an average of pounds 2.49 compared with C1s who spend the least, pounds 2.33. Most lottery tickets are sold in London, where sales per capita are pounds 1.55.

The lottery was defended by Virginia Bottomley, Minister for National Heritage, who said the weekly spend of pounds 2 was "less than a packet of cigarettes" and denied it was exploiting the people least able to afford it. She also said that the age limit for buying tickets would remain at 16, and indicated it was unlikely that prizes would be capped.