Middlesbrough Council to Launch £25k Lottery

Middlesbrough council has just announced that it is to run its own local lottery. The town is the latest in a growing number of local authorities to take on a lottery as a way to raise funds. With councils still grappling with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, lotteries offer a beacon of opportunity to generate much-needed cash. However, critics say that these lotteries could act as a gateway to gambling and its associated harms.

A bottle of champagne and glasses in a bucket of ice.

Middlesbrough’s new lottery could be brought in before the end of the year, and will offer participants the chance to win a jackpot of up to £25,000. ©JESHOOTS.COM/Unsplash

Raising Funds After Lockdown

Last week, Middlesbrough council became the latest local authority to sign up to a weekly lottery. There are now over 80 local authorities running these lotteries, and the idea seems to be gaining traction. Lotteries are viewed by most as a fun, effective and valuable fundraising tool.

60% of the funds raised through Middlesbrough’s lottery will help to plug a shortfall triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. Participants will be in with a chance to win a jackpot of £25,000, although the chances of winning stand at one in a million. To safeguard against problem gambling, players will not be allowed to purchase more than 20 tickets.

As well as the jackpot, cash prizes worth £1,000, £250 and £25 will also be on offer. Rollovers are allowed, provided that the jackpot doesn’t exceed £25,000. In most draws, half of the ticket price goes to a charitable cause, which the player can choose from a selection. 20% goes into the prize fund, while 10% can go directly to the council to spend on services.

Council lotteries are run slightly differently to the National Lottery. Gatherwell, a private company, runs these lotteries and licensing comes from the Gambling Commission. Council lotteries can be used to raise money for local community projects, parks and leisure facilities, and more.

The National Lottery is operated by Camelot, and offers much bigger jackpots available to players across the UK. Around 25% of the ticket price contributes to good causes, so more of the money generated goes towards the prize-pot. Camelot has faced criticism for this, as some think that this contribution is too low. However, this year Camelot pledged £600 million to charities impacted by the pandemic.

With the coronavirus pandemic piling more pressure than ever on local councils, finding enough money to cover all costs for key local services is a scramble. Some council budgets have been diverted to cover costs incurred during the lockdown and implementing safety measures as the lockdown is eased. While critics may urge councils to fundraise in other ways, local lotteries seem to be too much of a good opportunity for councils to pass up.

Mieke Smiles is the executive member for culture and communities at Middlesbrough Council. She is confident that Middlesbrough’s new lottery will generate much-needed income for the town’s event budget. Local events are vital in generating income for local businesses while building on the town’s identity. Smiles says:

“You only need to look at the likes of the Orange Pip or the Big Weekend to see what they can bring – it’s economic, with footfall and people spending money in town center businesses but also it’s about having a sense of pride and belonging.”

Low Risk Is Not No Risk

Campaigners working to combat problem gambling have warned that local lotteries could prove harmful for vulnerable groups. Those who run addiction support services say that lotteries could act as a gateway into gambling. According to the Gambling Commission, which regulates the UK’s gambling industry, lotteries fall into the category of ‘low-risk products’. However, councilors have been reminded that low-risk does not mean no risk, and that it is vitally important that lotteries are carried out responsibly.

Chris Hill, a recovered gambling addict, now helps to provide support for those still struggling problem gambling. He is one of many who have urged councils to look into the long-term effects of local lotteries. For him, any risk of triggering a gambling addiction is not worth it, even if lotteries can raise money for good causes.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioral Addiction at Nottingham Trent University, has echoed Hill’s concerns. He thinks that those who organize lotteries have a duty of care to participants. According to Griffiths, some players may end up spending beyond their means on tickets.

Professor Annie Anderson, president of the UK Society of Behavioral Medicine, says that lotteries do not come without risk, and questions whether it is appropriate for councils to introduce people to gambling. Anderson raises this point:

“The concept that something is going back into the local community as a result of the lottery may mean people are more motivated. If that’s what starts people gambling, questions need to be asked about whether this is the best way to raise funds.”

Ben Speare, managing director of Gatherwell, has assured those raising concerns that there are sufficient player protections in place to shield against gambling harms. The number of tickets bought by players is monitored, so that staff can get in touch with players who cause concern.

According to Speare, locally run lotteries let those who take part raise money for good causes while having fun. He says that Gatherwell allows local councils to raise around £3 million a year for local services and £40,000 a year for good causes. With Middlesbrough Council included, Gatherwell now helps over 80 local authorities with their fundraising lotteries.

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