Monday, 14 November 1994 was a sad day for this country. It was the first day tickets went on sale for the National Lottery. Over 7 million were sold on that day alone. Eventually over half the adult population of the country took part. Tickets are widely available and, unlike other forms of government controlled gambling, the lottery is widely advertised. The draw features on prime time television. Some 50% of money raised will go on prizes; government will take 12%; Camelot, the conglomerate running the lottery, and the retailers who retail tickets will share a further 10%. The remaining 28% will go to a Distribution Fund that will then divide the money between the Sports Council, Arts Council, National Heritage Memorial Fund, Millennium Fund and National Lotteries Charities Board. Here are ten reasons why the establishment of this lottery marks a sad day for Britain:
1. It makes gambling more common. Already widespread, gambling is now even more so, with the opportunity to gamble in high street shops and post offices from 7 am until 11 p.m. every day. Gambling addictions cause untold misery to thousands. With this new, easily available, widely advertised form of gambling, it will undoubtedly increase.
2. It makes gambling respectable. The impression is give that good citizens gamble. Other opportunities for gambling, such as on sport, still have a certain seediness about them. The lottery has been introduced with the idea that here is a source of Innocent fun for all good citizens.
3. It actively promotes covetousness. It encourages a 'get rich quick' mentality. This is common to most forms of gambling. The difference here is its extensive promotion and the approval of those in authority and with influence. 'Be on your guard' says Jesus 'against all kinds of greed'.
4. It encourages irresponsible use of money. The lottery flies in the face of all that the Bible teaches about the importance of careful stewardship. The argument is made, 'But it's only a pound'. Even if it is (it will be more for some) that is still £52 a year, over £500 in a decade. In the vast majority of cases it will be money spent with no return.
5. It encourages day dreaming and idleness instead of honest bard work. The attraction for the punter is said to be the excitement of a possible fortune. In other words, millions of people are being urged to dream of something as likely as Elvis Presley riding on the Loch Ness Monster. Instead of working hard for their pleasures, people are being encouraged to seek something for nothing. Soon all will appear before the throne of judgement; is it right for people to be stuffing their minds with idle dreams of a future that will almost certainly never be? If a man will not work, he shall not eat was the apostle Paul's rule.
6. It exposes children to the world of gambling. Previously the age limit for gambling was 18. It is now down to 16 for the lottery and the pools. Further, unlike many aspects of gambling, the lottery will go on in full view of inquisitive children. Early fascination with and involvement in gambling will be the consequence.
7. It is an inefficient way of giving to the needy. One of the chief arguments for buying lottery tickets is that it helps the needy. In fact only 5.6% of money received will go to charities. Even the most greedy and inefficient charities pass on a higher percentage.
8. It undermines the concept of giving. In its attempt to make giving painless, it also undermines the whole concept. Jesus said, 'It is better to give than to receive'. But if you give in order to receive, is that really giving? We are in danger of losing true charity.
9. It is a questionable means of raising government revenue. If the lottery is a form of taxation it is a voluntary tax, most likely to come from those least able to afford it. It is clear from Scripture that the powers that be have a right to levy taxes but the lottery is a highly questionable means of obtaining revenue. It is inefficient, unfair and hedged about with moral difficulties.
10. It subtly undermines the concept of God's sovereignty and promotes superstition. This criticism can be levelled at most gambling but the lottery is particularly blatant in its promotional materials. The chosen symbol includes a crossed fingers motif, a superstitious sign for good luck. Then there is another finger, the finger that appears under the heading It could be you. Whose finger is this? God's? But these people ignore God and his word. Perhaps it is supposed to be the finger of fate. Chance, luck, fortune, these are the gods of this age, and the God who decides the very throw of a dice is not just forgotten but driven from every thought.
Mr Major believes that everyone in the country will benefit from this, the first state lottery in over a century. The truth is that it marks one more step in the decline of a nation that has known such blessing from God.
This article first appeared in Grace Magazine