Examination of Witness (Questions 456
THURSDAY 14 DECEMBER 2000
Chairman: Dr Fisher, thank you very much
for coming to see us this morning. We have had one group with
very interesting perspectives. You are about to give us another.
Mr Fearn is opening the questioning.
456. I have noticed that during the course of
the morning you have sat very quietly and nodded where you should
have nodded, and not nodded where you should not have, but when
we talk about compulsive gambling, are we really associating that
with the National Lottery? Does it lead to compulsive gambling
and, if so, is there a cure?
(Dr Fisher) First of all, I would like to say that
when the National Lottery was first introduced as a weekly draw,
most citizens expected it to stay as a weekly draw. But if you
look at the trend in other countries that have gone before us,
there is considerable pressure on the national lottery or the
state lottery to maintain the money it raises for good causes,
and at the same time there is a falling off of public interest.
This tension leads to the introduction of faster and faster games.
We saw the process begin in 1995, with the introduction of scratchcards,
which is a much faster, harder form of gambling than the national
draw. What concerns me particularly is the sort of games that
I think may well be on the agenda of either Camelot or The People's
Lottery for the future. They are definitely the sort of games
that can guarantee more problem gambling in this country.
457. Is it appropriate for the National Lottery
to be regulated separately from other forms of gambling?
(Dr Fisher) In terms of the regulation of the game
itself, I would say no. It would be important that it came under
an area where there was already existing expertise in this very
specialist area. Maybe there is room, when it comes to distribution
or other issues, for it to be handled separately, but if the present
trend continues in this countryas it is has, for example,
in North America and Australia, to introduce faster and faster
gamesthen I would have thought, for the interests of the
National Lottery and the British people, that it has to be very
458. You mentioned the United States of America
and Australia. Are they particularly further ahead than we are?
(Dr Fisher) They have gone further down the route
of introducing faster games. We know that they lead to more problem
gambling. In some of the states of North America, where comparative
studies have been done, we know that problem gambling or compulsive
gambling, as you called it, is very much more associated with
"instant" games, scratchcards being one of them, and
electronic games. I am particularly concerned about games that
have been introduced, which you can play either on a video lottery
terminal (a very sophisticated fast slot machine), or the future
beyond that which is to introduce lottery games into the home
via an interactive game on the television screen, or on a mobile
phone or some other hand-held digital device.
459. So if all that happens, there is a problem
there with children playing games?
(Dr Fisher) There is a problem with adults and children.
We know from research in other countries that fast games have
led to problem gambling in adults, which has brought some lotteries
into disrepute. It has had a lot of media coverage. I am thinking
of one place in Nova Scotia where they have back-pedalled. They
had introduced video lottery terminals and raised substantial
revenues because they are a very fast game. There was a lot of
under-age gambling that you have just mentioned. There was one
notable case of a husband who took a sledgehammer to seven of
these machines because his wife had been putting too much family
money into them and that caused a problem. For children, there
is already a problem with children gambling on scratchcards. We
have the research that demonstrates that.