Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 480 - 487)



Mr Maxton

  480. It has happened elsewhere.
  (Dr Fisher) On the National Lottery Show you could have a little ticker-tape message, "Illegal for children under the age of . . .", I would have it 18. Give something for the parents to work on.

Mr Maxton

  481. Could I switch back to technology. I actually do not think you are right. First of all, both Lottery bidders have said they could do the National Lottery on the Internet and via the television, so it is not just a matter of Instants. A lot of people gamble on horses using the television and the Internet and it is not instant, they put their money on an hour before and then wait for the race. What is the difference doing it on the Internet?
  (Dr Fisher) Yes, that is a possibility. Both Camelot and The People's Lottery are speaking very loudly about maintaining the money for good causes and to do that they need to be introducing exciting games and games which will appeal to different groups of people. Bear in mind that most of these technologies and indeed many segments of the companies are transnational, it is very unlikely we are not going to do what they do in North America or Australia.

  482. You can already do that on the Internet, you can gamble offshore on the Internet at the moment.
  (Dr Fisher) I know that, I have been on the sites, but we are talking about the appropriateness of that for the National Lottery.

  483. The other thing is that in order to pay for it, you have to have a credit card, you have to put in a credit card number, and large numbers of children between 11 and 18 do not have credit cards, do they? So how are they going to gamble on the television or the Internet?
  (Dr Fisher) Two points on that. First of all, yes, that may be the way it is done, or it may be through a sky card and a pin number. Having seen and interviewed many fruit machine gamblers, I would be surprised if they admitted they could not get the pin number. Secondly, the credit card issue is important too because that means the gambling industries not only have access to your current stream of income but your future stream of income as well.

  484. That is why it would be much better to limit it to the National Lottery, where it is run by a very regulated, organised body, if we are going to have it, rather than opening up Internet gambling or television gambling to whoever wants to use it.
  (Dr Fisher) My main concern, if the Lottery goes down that route, is the sort of games which would be played, and they are not like the weekly draw, they are hard casino-type games.

  485. The fact is that as technology itself will allow instant games of that nature to be played, so will the technology, which is already available, allow, rather than identity cards in the sense we mean them, smart cards on which your identity is already there, so that by finger-print or by eye, whatever it may be, no one else can use that card. So you cannot pass it down to children and children would not be allowed to play.
  (Dr Fisher) Assuming that you can devise a completely safe system for doing that, it still leaves the issue that a state lottery could in this way potentially be sold by means of casino-type games which are highly addictive. They are highly addictive in comparison with the National Lottery draw.

  486. I am sorry but in comparison to the National Lottery, in other words the twice weekly draw, the scratchcards have not had anything like the success in terms of sales, have they?
  (Dr Fisher) No, but if you look at the sales in North America of the electronic products which are the ones which would be delivered via TV, they are very, very popular and they do have a wide take-up. In the case of some of the games with a short span of play, the latest statistic is that you are up to 16 times as likely to become a problem gambler if you are a weekly player of those games than of the weekly draw.

  487. Do you think the benefits we have gained in this country from the National Lottery outweigh the problems we might have with addictive gambling?
  (Dr Fisher) I do not think I can answer that simply but I would answer it in this way: something which generates such a large amount of money by what is in essence gambling needs to be operated with wisdom with respect to the sort of games introduced and with an eye to the future, rather than looking at short-term expediency and getting as much money as possible. If you look at the histories which have been written of state lotteries, right the way back to the 14th and 15th centuries, none of them have ever failed through lack of producing plenty of money, they have always failed through social consequences, either lack of probity in the operator or child gambling or excessive gambling.

  Chairman: Very, very stimulating. Thank you very much indeed. This last exchange reminds one that this is quite an old problem. Bernard Shaw wrote a play called Widowers' Houses dealing with it. Thank you very much indeed.

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