This was the mantra for the British Lottery when it began in November 1994. The concept and submission was made during the Prime Ministership of John Major. In some quarters it was greeted with dismay. The opening prize was £7 million.
This is a conundrum. Gambling is a vice when extreme, and also can damage family relationships, any lottery is gambling but the British Lottery was presented in such a family-friendly way that is became quite acceptable for anyone over 18 to take part, and they did.
Now here is the thing. In the Olympic Games in London and again in Rio, commentator after commentator, competitor after competitor has mentioned the huge, incalculable benefit the lottery has made to British sport. Not one has failed to mention the advantages that lottery money has made to their training, their teams and their success.
It has to come from sporting excellence first, so I am taking nothing away from our champions; it is unarguable though that the money from the lottery, millions of pounds as it is, makes a difference to the quality of the training facilities, the equipment and the trainers.
So, how many of those athletes and sportsmen and women actually “do the lottery”? I will stick my neck out here – not many I would guess.
Similarly with the Heritage Lottery Fund. I was recently on a committee seeking lottery funding for a project that we wished to do and couldn’t raise enough money without a grant. As I looked round the fellow members, I wondered how many of us actually took part in raising the fund – not one, I suspect.
Now, to roll back a bit. Supposing John Major’s Government had seen the need but instead levied a mandatory £1 on to everyone in the country, with the option to add more if one felt generous.
Can you imagine the outcry?
But by sweetening the pill, making it possible (if unlikely) to win something back, hordes of people have rushed to fill in their lottery numbers and make this huge amount of money available for sport, our heritage and many other things.
It started on one of my son’s birthdays, so I bought him and myself a ticket once a week for a year, I must have claimed back about £30. Another son won about £120 in about the third month, but I found I got bored and although I continued to fill in the numbers, couldn’t be bothered to look up to see what had been drawn each week. I kept it up for a year and haven’t done it since.
It is a fact that many organisations benefit: 40% goes to funding for Health, Education, the Environment and Charity; Sport, the Arts and Heritage get 20% each of the remaining 60%.
It has undoubtedly made a few people rich beyond their wildest dreams, but as demonstrated by London and Rio, by far and away the most obvious winners are our medal winning finalists.
Their triumphs are our triumphs! In spite of the back-biting by less well financed athletes, the wins cannot be taken away – you do not get any medals at the Olympic Games without a huge effort.
So although it is gambling, as long as it doesn’t get out of hand, it seems to me that we owe Sir John Major a vote of thanks.
Congratulations to all the winners, all the sportsmen and women who took part and did not win this time, their trainers, their teams, their teachers who encouraged them to take part in whatever discipline it is and their families who took them to training, fed them and all that without whom…
Above all though – whether you bought lottery tickets or not – IT IS YOU!!!