Letter: Health risks of National Lottery heartstoppers

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article on the National Lottery (12 April) is correct in concluding that its harmful effects are better dealt with in terms of prevention rather than cure. This is particularly so in relation to the recently introduced scratch card Instants to which Jim White referred (article, 12 April). Many of them are what the last Royal Commission on Gambling described as "heartstoppers", which give the illusion of coming close to winning a big prize. They therefore lead to the unreflecting and spontaneous purchase of tickets to excess.

The US Commission on the Review of the National Policy toward Gambling expressed concern about instant lotteries. It stated that,

where the Commission does find a serious potential for abuse in the present practices of the state lotteries is in their increasing reliance on the instant game as both a promotional vehicle and a revenue source ... any lottery which in fact encouraged frequent participation might prove to be inimical to the general welfare

The Commission therefore recommended that "the nature of participation in instant games should be carefully monitored".

Section 4 of the National Lottery etc Act 1993 places a responsibility on the Heritage Secretary and the director-general of the National Lottery to ensure that "the interests of every participant in a lottery that forms part of the National Lottery are protected". This must include the monitoring of any possible harm to individual participants.

The director-general of the National Lottery inevitably has been preoccupied with getting the lottery up and running. He needs assistance in performing this essential monitoring function.

Some months ago, the National Council on Gambling proposed the establishment of an expert committee to advise the director-general on any adverse effects of the National Lottery on individuals. Regrettably, this suggestion has so far not been taken up.

Yours faithfully,



The National Council on Gambling

London, N1

14 April