Lottery tickets 'should be on sale by 1994': Charities fear public support for smaller ventures may fall away

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Indy Politics
THE National Lottery Bill, published yesterday, should result in tickets being on sale by the end of 1994, Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for National Heritage, said yesterday.

Estimates of turnover vary, but Mr Brooke said a pounds 1.5bn turnover would result in pounds 14m worth of prizes each week in what would be the first national lottery in Britain since 1826.

Proposals for the proceeds include a Millennium Commission to be appointed by the Queen to oversee projects marking the new year in 2000, and the establishment of a National Lottery Charities Board to distribute funds to charitable organisations.

Under the proposed Bill, Mr Brooke will be able to make regulations about the minimum age at which a ticket can be bought, and where and how tickets can be sold. It is not yet known where they will be sold, but newsagents and post offices are likely outlets. The lottery will be run by a private operator responsible to a new Office of the National Lottery with a director general to be appointed by Mr Brooke.

The Bill proposes that the director general would issue one main licence for the lottery's infrastructure, and a series of sub-licences for the individual games which would form part of the national lottery; the proceeds should be equally divided between charities, the arts, sport, heritage and millennium projects.

The money will be dispensed to good causes by existing bodies such as the Arts Council, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Sports Council, as well as the National Lotteries Charity Board and Millennium Commission.

Existing legislation for local and other lotteries will be amended to allow an increase in prize limits from pounds 12,000 to pounds 25,000 and, amongst other things, a relaxation of the advertising rules.

The availability of tickets would be decided by lottery operators and Mr Brooke said they might be available at local newsagents for as little as 50p.

Mr Brooke said the Bill would go through Parliament during the course of 1993 and it would take 'well over a year' to set up the lottery.

'I think, in principle, we should be seeing the first benefits flowing through before the end of '94 and then a full year in '95,' he added.

During the Bill's passage through the Commons, Labour intends to press for inner-city areas such as Merseyside and Cardiff to benefit through National Lottery Board-backed special projects to compensate for any loss in pools jobs. Robert Maclennan, the Liberal Democrat national heritage spokesman, said there were dangers in the potential for excessive gambling which needed serious consideration.

'Some charities could actually find themselves out of pocket if the lottery is allowed to eat away at their income from raffles, lotteries and donations,' he said.

David Mellor, the former secretary of state for national heritage, argued that every other European country had a national lottery. 'It is an idea whose time has come round and it could benefit the arts to the tune of a couple of hundred million a year fairly quickly.'

Mr Brooke's insistence that the lottery would not attract the gambler and was distinct from the football pools, which were games of skill, attracted a swift rebuke from Malcolm Hughes, managing director of Vernons Pools.

'Nowhere in the world do national lotteries operate with the pretence that they are not gambling, and I think it is extraordinary that Mr Brooke should seek to present it in these terms,' he said.

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

The Institute of Charity Fundraising Managers gave a cautious welcome to the Bill, expressing fears for the maintenance of the existing levels of public support for charity provided by smaller lotteries.

Stephen Lee, a director of the institute, said: 'During the current recession, charities are under enormous pressure to increase their services at a time when fundraising has never been so constrained.

'Only if the Government can provide appropriate compensation for the potential downturn in voluntary income that the lottery Bill might cause, and ensure the provision of additional funds, can the voluntary sector support it.'

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations also said 'major safeguards' were needed for the Bill. Judy Weleminsky, an NCVO director, said: 'The National Lottery is an ambitious and bold scheme which should undoubtedly benefit the 'good causes'. However, there must be a number of safeguards for the voluntary sector which have to be addressed as MPs debate the Bill.'

Leading article, page 18

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