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A bit of Fielding

A lottery is a taxation/Upon all the fools in creation/And Heaven be praised/ It is easily raised/ Credulity’s always in fashion (1732)

I was interested today to read the exchange in the DCMS Select Committee hearing which took place a week ago last Tuesday, featuring people from Camelot talking about the National Lottery.

I had previously read a summary that explained that the Conservative MP for Shipley, Philip Davies, had asked why it was less dangerous for a 16-year-old to buy £5 worth of lottery tickets than have a £5 bet on the Grand National; and that John Dillon, Camelot’s Director of Legal Services, had apparently replied that the evidence bore it out.

My reaction at the time had been “really? what evidence is that?” I didn’t know anyone had studied it to produce any evidence, still less what the outcome of that study was.

I had also read that Camelot’s Head of Regulatory Affairs, Daniel Dyball, had added the National Lottery had a layer of protection for players as well as clear rules against underage players, which had led me to think, “Oh, well that’s all right then. No-one else in the gambling industry has either of those.”

In summary, my inital reaction to it all was, “come on gents – you must be able to do better than that.” But I thought I should wait for the transcript before jumping to conclusions on the basis of someone’s summary, hoping and believing that surely there had to be more to it.

That transcript was published today, and the relevant section is reproduced below.

You can pass your own judgment.


Q19 Philip Davies: Just to press you on the pertinent point that Gerry Sutcliffe made, about the fact that you can play the National Lottery at the age of 16 but you cannot indulge in any other form of gambling until you are 18, can you explain to me-because nobody has yet successfully managed to do so-why it is absolutely fine for a 16-year-old to buy five scratch cards for the National Lottery, but it is absolutely unacceptable for that same 16-year-old to put a £5 bet on the Grand National?

John Dillon: We work very hard on our player protection strategies, and particularly on preventing underage play. However, it is a policy matter, I suppose, which Parliament decided.

Q20 Philip Davies: I appreciate that Parliament decided that, in its wisdom or otherwise. I am not asking about Parliament; I know that. What I am asking you is: can you justify why it is absolutely fine for a 16-year-old to buy five scratch cards, but it is absolutely unacceptable for that same 16-year-old to put a £5 bet on the Grand National? Why is one so much better and less dangerous than the other?

John Dillon: I think our view is that it is not as dangerous.

Q21 Philip Davies: Why?

John Dillon: For whatever the reasons are why harder gambling products are potentially more dangerous for vulnerable players.

Q22 Philip Davies: Why is a scratch card a less dangerous gambling product than a once-a-year bet on the Grand National? Why is that less dangerous? I genuinely want to know, because I am puzzled by this.

John Dillon: I think all one can say is that the evidence does not show that selling scratch cards to 16-year-olds is a dangerous thing.

Q23 Philip Davies: What evidence is that? What evidence is there that betting on the Grand National is more dangerous than buying scratch cards?

John Dillon: I cannot comment on that.

Q24 Philip Davies: You cannot give a justification for why one is fine and one is not?

Daniel Dyball: We work within the regulatory framework that is put in front of us, and in terms of the difference between the National Lottery and gambling products, it is the level of player protection and integrity that is built into the regulatory framework for lotteries, which means that, for one reason or another, when Parliament set up the framework, it intended that there would be a different age limit for the two products. In the Lottery framework, there is so much player protection, and we won the World Lottery Association responsible gaming award in 2012, in recognition of the fact that we are doing a lot to prevent underage playing. There are those other elements in the lottery framework, which I think distinguish it from gambling.

Q25 Philip Davies: If you are so confident that your products are less harmful than other forms of gambling, would you welcome this united commission looking into the respective ages at which people can gamble on different products?

Daniel Dyball: We think that player protection is a very important issue, and we would be happy to look at any proposals around those rules.

Chair: I think that is all the Committee has for you. Thank you very much.




Posted in Betting industry, Uncategorized.

6 Responses

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  1. Peter Webb says

    While both could become addictive and create problem gambling, it’s hard to believe that anybody could start chasing losses on scratch cards. But it’s easy to see how people could get into trouble on the next horse race or double up on a red after a losing run.

  2. MD says

    You should apply for a job in Camelot’s Corporate Affairs department, Peter: the obvious answer that both of them failed to give. I suspect the reason is that they they know the first part of your sentence is only too true, and the fear of it being put on the record panicked them .

  3. colston says

    Saying that, after dropping my daughter and her boyfriend at her flat after a day at the Derby recently, he popped into the local off licence, bought a £10 scratchcard and a bottle of wine, and he won a £100 (£90 actually, as you don’t get your stake back)!
    Couldn’t that be considered “chasing”?
    Yes and I know, not ideal future son in law material.

  4. Peter Webb says

    I said it was hard to believe, not impossible. Also maybe I should have inserted the words ‘sensible people’ instead of anybody. Merely a comment on how easy it is with casino’s or sports. Everybody knows I dislike traditional gambling for these reasons and loathe manufactured risk.

    Out of courtesy to Mark, you really should address him and his posts with your thoughts.

  5. PPBox says

    Fair enough, but I addressed the point to you because it was your comment I was replying to. It wouldn’t have made much sense addressing it to Mark, as I’m in full agreement with him on this point: it’s bizarre to consider one gambling product less prone to problem gambling than others without any evidence to support that contention.

    If you’d added ‘sensible people’ to your post it wouldn’t have made it any more logical -sensible people don’t chase their losses on horse racing or roulette either. You drew a distinction between scratch cards, sports betting and casino betting where none exists (based on any studies I’ve ever seen), which was ironically the precise point of Mark’s original post: we allow 16-year-olds to bet on lottery products because presumably someone gave it a bit of thought and, just like you, found it hard to believe that scratch cards and the like could be addictive.

    Sorry if my reply seemed a little curt, it wasn’t the intention. I do find it fascinating how many intelligent people involved in the world of gambling regularly make the mistake of assuming that their own attitude to a particular product or other gambling issue says something more broadly about the behaviour and preferences of others. You see it discussions about all sorts of topics, from problem gambling to pricing. In my experience however intelligent you are and however much thought you’ve given an issue, if your conclusion differs from the one you get analysing data on what thousands of customers actually do, you’re mistaken and the data is right.

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