In September 2011, a controversial new lottery game was launched in the UK. Called ‘The Health Lottery’, it is owned by Northern & Shell, the media company founded by Richard Desmond. Like Camelot’s existing National Lottery game in the UK, The Health Lottery will donate money it earns from the sale of tickets to charitable healthcare causes across the UK.
This is one of the most controversial points of The Healthy Lottery. While tickets for both the Health Lottery and National Lottery cost £1, Camelot donates 28 pence to healthcare causes from every single ticket sale, whereas The Health Lottery only donates 20 pence. Not only will The Health Lottery boost Northern & Shell’s charitable donations, it is also hoped it will be a profitable, money-making venture for the company.
Speaking during the launch period of The Health Lottery, Sir Stephen Bubb from the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations voiced his opinions on the new gamble to The Times newspaper. He said it was a “pretty disgraceful development” before adding: “The government needs to look at lottery regulation to ensure it’s made transparent to people who play that this new lottery is giving a lot less per £1 to good causes.”
However, the move was defended by Desmond, who said he truly believes donations from the Health Lottery will “touch every part of England, Scotland and Wales.” Meanwhile, Martin Hall, the Chief Executive of the new game, said every community in Britain would experience its benefits.
Rather than being a national lottery game, The Health Lottery is an amalgamation of 51 local society lotteries, with each one representing a local authority area in Great Britain. Each community lottery is licensed by the Gambling Commission and is responsible for raising money for health organisations outside of the UK’s National Health Service. One of The Health Lottery’s key partners that it works with is the People’s Health Trust, an independently registered charity which is responsible for distributing the money raised through the lottery to regional healthcare causes.
Every week, two local authorities will be involved in the lottery draw, meaning each one will have the chance to benefit equally from the money earned. The money goes towards a variety of causes; local community groups and charities, locally operated national charities and social enterprises. It has been estimated that The Health Lottery will earn £50 million a year for healthcare services across the UK.
However, since its inception The Health Lottery has received a large amount of criticism. Most recently it has made the headlines for an apparent loophole which has allowed the game to be formed. As a result, the UK government has been urged to investigate the terms under which The Health Lottery was set up, the Press Association news agency has reported. Speaking in the House of Lords, a member of the Labour party, Lord Collins of Highbury, said there was “an apparent loophole exploited by The Health Lottery with its 51 separate companies.”
Pleading with Baroness Garden of Frognal, a spokesperson for the government, he said: “Will you give an assurance that this loophole will be examined and perhaps closed by the Government bearing in mind that the health lottery has in effect a turnover of £510 million a year and is in effect an alternative national lottery, not only affecting funding for other health charities but funding for the arts in general.”
Peers of Lord Collins also voiced their concern at The Health Lottery. The Press Association again reported that Lord Faulkner of Worcester said the game had subjected some charities to “unfair competition.”Explaining further he said, “The hospice movement is particularly alarmed because it depends very heavily on society lotteries. In Worcester, for example, our two hospices receive £70,000 a year from the South Worcestershire Hospices Lottery and that lottery pays 50 pence in the pound, not 20 pence in the pound to good causes.”
Despite the reservations, there are causes that have already benefitted from The Health Lottery. For example, in Yorkshire, England, the charity Dementia UK has received £60,000 which will fund the recruitment of a specialist support nurse and over £40,000 will go towards supporting young carers.
While the drive behind Desmond’s involvement in The Health Lottery may be entirely profit based, even he recognises the potential the game has to improve local healthcare services and provisions across the UK. Speaking when he purchased The Health Lottery he said: “This is a great way of being able to get across more than £50 million a year to change people's lives. That's why we got involved. It's a very exciting project.”
The Health Lottery TV Advert: