National Lottery price hike: False hope floats on

The Lottery acts as God. Yes, 'it could be you'. But statistically you have a much higher chance of sleeping with Dale Winton


Just for a moment, take yourself back to the most desperate period in your life and recall what things kept you going. Among them will surely be hope. Or perhaps, if hopeless, blind faith: that that blinking, unreachable light is a rescue ship. We excel at expecting miracles – no wonder God still looms over our age of science. But when drowning, we cling to anything: a  dilapidated raft, a slippery rock, and often, the very person trying to drown us. It is why the pithiest novel of 2012 – Hope: A Tragedy, by Shalom Auslander – was so expertly titled.

It could have been about the National Lottery. Or any of the “winners” who later describe in  pathos-drenched detail how £10m (or these days more like £2m) swung at their life like a wrecking ball. It could also have described those who never win, but week in, week out, keep shelling out, trapped in an ugly, compulsive loop.

Thanks to the price of a ticket now doubling to £2, this state-endorsed gambling gets uglier still as those who can least afford it cough up more. But to call the Lotto a tax on hope would lavish it with undeserved praise. It is much, much worse. Everyone hopes, not everyone pays. And while it isn’t only the desperate queuing up for a ticket, it is certainly a contingent, buying in poverty-blinded faith that the flickering TV screen with the coloured balls could be their money-laden ship. The Lottery acts as God, and like God, has salvation on the menu but nothing in the kitchen.

Yes, “it could be you”. But statistically you have a much higher chance of sleeping with Dale Winton. That’s assuming, given there’s a one-in-14-million probability of winning, that the host of In It To Win it has slept with more than four Britons. Now that I’d put a bet on.

A Camelot worker appeared on the BBC to defend the price hike, and raved about the “virtuous circle” triggered by such a move: more prizes, more money for good causes, yadda yadda. He didn’t mention the greater profits for Camelot. Remind me, in which ancient text does avarice appear as a virtue?

The tragedy isn’t only hope; it is the gut-kicking truth that a tiny fraction of such winnings could transform many of the gamblers’ lives. And that fraction should come from a fairer dispersal of taxes, or Sure Start, or free university education, or the EMA or any invaluable measure bulldozed by George Osborne. Because, of course, five years after our City-born depression, the only “trickle down” Britain witnesses is the bleeding noses of cocaine-snorting bankers.

And those good causes? Let a higher rate of tax for the super rich fund them. Otherwise we have the poor hooked into an all-night slot machine, pulling the lever, nothing ever coming out, and the House proudly proclaiming they’re helping the needy with the proceeds. As ever, the haves are ennobled, the  have-nots are hobbled. Dickens would weep. The Lottery is not a circle of virtue but a spiral of hope and despair, the blinking light never reaching us.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page


Ed Miliband's conference speech must show Labour has a head as well as a heart

Patrick Diamond
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments