So I've been playing the lottery a bit lately. I'm not sure why, just have. Perhaps I see more adverts for it or perhaps it's because 'it could be me!'. And we all like a bit of a flutter don't we? I mean, I'm not alone, in a typical week, almost half the population of the country invest their hard earned funds into the National Lottery. And since the National Lottery was introduced in the UK in 1994, it's raised over £40 billion for good causes and awarded £60 billion in prizes to the lucky few. In the process, it's created over 5000 millionaires!

Is playing the National Lottery a good idea then?

For every £1 spent on the National Lottery, about 56 pence goes on the prizes, 23 pence goes to good causes and just the one pence goes as profit to Camelot, which runs the thing.

Strangely, Camelot is now owned by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan - so that one percent profit now keeps ageing Canadian teachers in the style to which they are accustomed!

So if you're playing for purely altruistic reasons (ahem, like me), less than a quarter of your contribution goes to good causes. However, if you like the scratch cards, even less, only 10%, of your investment goes to good causes. Whereas for the draw-based games, a much higher proportion, about 30%, does.

The Lottery was created to help widen our, i.e. the Great British public's, access to sport, culture and heritage. For example, it was a significant funder of the London Olympics, helping to support many of the UK athletes that performed so admirably there.

Approximately 20% of the funds distributed by the National Lottery go specifically to sports. However being a gold medal winning athlete doesn't necessarily lead to untold riches, for example, the maximum lottery funding they can currently get is only £28000/year. Not to be sniffed at, but at the same time it doesn't seem all that much for being the best in the world at something.

Where else does the money go?

In recent years, big grants have been awarded to help regenerate Blackpool and Hull, revitalise parts of the River Severn and build museums in Ipswich and Portsmouth. But there are loads of small grants available to support all sorts of things across the country.

However, the naysayers will say that the lottery penalises the poor. This is because lower income households are more likely to play the games, spending a greater proportion of their income on them. Not only are lower income households less likely to be able to afford to play the lottery, they are more likely to play them - in effect a double whammy.

Furthermore a lot of the funding goes to support projects that are more likely to benefit those living in richer areas, despite the efforts made to redress this imbalance. Th naysayers also say the lottery allows the government to reduce its spending in those areas the lottery supports. While having a lottery in the first place inherently suggests the government promotes gambling and all the risks associated with it.

For more information where the money goes

But back to the good stuff.

The largest National Lottery jackpot won was a whopping £66 million! There were 2 winners for the jackpot, so the poor devils only won £33 million each - goodness knows how they coped!! There's a 1 in 45 million chance of actually winning the jackpot, not the best odds I've ever seen in my life. I mean, you've got more chance of being eaten by a shark, haven't you? Actually you haven't, you've got a far, far greater chance of winning the jackpot than being eaten by a shark. Especially if you can't swim and never go to the beach. However when it comes to unlikely events, weirdly, you've got more chance of falling asleep in the sun and dying from sunburn than you ever have of winning the jackpot!!

So what am I going to do?

I'll carry on playing, I like to dream, and I prefer to support my country rather than the bookies. I don't spend much on it, so it's not eating into my finances. I'll keep on playing the draws and not the scratch cards. I'll keep going in the sea for a swim not worrying too much about sharks but I'll try not to forget to put the factor 30 sun cream on!

By Matthew Birt

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