Sunday, June 15, 2008

In the paper shop

6.30 a.m. today. An elderly man is poring over the pink Lottery result printout in the newsagent's. He's had four numbers come up.

"Drinks are on you, then," I say.

"I've spent £35,000 since the Lottery started, and had five back," he says.

He'd come to the shop at six, having forgotten that it opens at half-past. He thinks he's in the early stages of Alzheimer's.


Here's some lines of comment that could come out of this, but you can easily expand them yourself, I'm sure:

  • Mathematics - the Lottery gives back 45% in prizes, but averaging-out could take forever
  • What is a Government doing, making gambling so easy and readily available (and it started under the Tories)?
  • How much would this man have had, if he'd saved £208 per month since 1994?
  • Now that insurance salesmen have disappeared, what has happened to savings among the C2/D classes? Has financial consumer protection (after the pensions mis-selling compensation and regulation bonanza) indirectly impoverished them and made them more dependent on the State?

I expect you can come up with more, and better.

And then there's drink, from allowing supermarkets to sell it along with your groceries, to 24-hour booze licensing.

Are misguided arguments for liberty being used to enslave people to their weaknesses? Should heavily-capitalised businesses be allowed to batten on those flaws?


dearieme said...

I always assumed that the purpose of the Lottery was to replace the Council Tax, in the sense of trying to get some money out of THEM.


I understand that research indicates that the underclass pays around 40% indirect tax on its income. Perhaps we should abolish all purchase taxes and cut benefits by 60% (or whatever). What's the point of give-with-one-hand-take-with-the-other? Apart from disguising the crippling burden of taxation, of course. Oh dear, I've answered my own question.

Ryan said...

£35,000 over the last 15 years or so? That's an awful lot of lottery tickets. A fool and his money are soon parted. From weak hands to strong. Or maybe he just isn't very good at maths, apart from his other obvious mental problems? I think most lottery ticket purchasers spend no mroe than £52 a year - less than £1000 since the lottery started.

I have less concern about the lottery since it isn't addicive as such and the sums that could be won are genuinely life-changing - you aren't likely to play the lottery anymore once you've had a big win!

Gambling usually works by filtering out those that are prone to be addicted. They are excited by a small win at the start and then come back for more, unable to realise that an early win will be more than cancelled out by regular losses later. The lottery doesn't really work that way.


I know someone who's worked in an off-licence (on a council estate) that also does Lottery tickets. Even some years ago, there were those who would buy £30-worth of tickets at a time.

The psychology of gambling is complicated. I have heard that some gamblers are as excited by losses as by gains. Like Woody Allen's stockbroker, they look after the money until it's all gone.