The National Lottery & Scratch Cards

Whilst the majority of people believe the lottery to be largely non-addictive, the same cannot be said for scratch cards. We intend to spark debate and look at the current system and offer direct common-sense solutions to minimise harm.

The emergence of the National Lottery in 1994 propelled the normalisation of gambling into every household in the UK. Sitting around the TV as a family each Saturday, counting down the minutes until the draw was made, effectively triggered a shot of dopamine that for most was short-lived and forgotten about son after. Then the draws were twice weekly, then the Euromillians added a third draw, and then a fourth. Then we had Thunderball and who knows what other draws are out there now in the absence of checking. By increasing the frequency of draws, inevitably people choosing their own numbers would be sucked into a feeling that they had to comply with playing the additional draws through fear of seeing their numbers come up without taking part. So whilst the lottery itself sits low on the addictiveness radar, the increased number of draws from such loyal number-followers has effectively psychologically coerced them into spending more than they may have initially wanted to, on the premise of it being a weekly event. The gambling industry by default, are designed to make you spend more than you intended to, by virtue of its addictive nature, however in this scenario, the coerciveness is done so through fear of missing out on your numbers coming in.

Then throw into the mix scratch cards. These have morphed from being a small number available, which were initially £1 to gradually going up to £10. However, in August 2019, the sale of £10 scratch cards were ended. The National Lottery issued a succinct statement which read, ‘The reason is that our player protection programme has shown that, unlike other National Lottery products, £10 scratch cards over-index among problem gamblers- so we’v decided to stop selling these products once stocks already in shops have run out.’ Recently we have heard Dr Matt Gaskell who is a Consultant Psychologist and Clinical lead within the NHS gambling clinics, state that scratch card use was the third most common form of gambling seen amongst his patients, behind EGMs and in-play sport betting. With such first-hand evidence there is absolutely no way that Gamvisorygroup can ignore the subject.

If we consider that current legislation very much includes the National Lottery, with regards to those purchasing both lottery tickets and scratch cards via retail outlets, how have they been able to comply with legislation and moreover, adhering to the founding principles of The Gambling Act, to protect the vulnerable to keep crime out of gambling? A person that could be addicted to scratch cards could hop between shops and purchase excessive amounts of them without there being any concerns raised. Furthermore, would a shop assistant have an ability to raise concerns anyhow currently if someone was potentially spending excessive amounts on scratch cards in one outlet? This would dependent upon whether there are thresholds that could trigger this, but we suspect it to be the case that even if this was in place, it would be largely ineffective.

We therefore propose a simple solution to ensuring that he NL can both comply with legislation and protect disordered gamblers, that being the introduction of a NL ID card. Therefore, this would instantly link a person’s retail custom with their online custom, allowing the company to monitor and intervene when harm markers become notable. And of course, those that just use retail to purchases their goods can also have signs of excessive spending easily identified. There would, of course, as is the bigger debate generally, potentially have to be a link in with affordability also. An additional tool to implement also (as mentioned by the Grasp Group) would be to ensure that only a ‘Lucky Dip’ or a random number can be purchased. This would stop those that may not be able to afford playing the lottery on each draw, or moreover not really wanting to either, by removing the psychological hold of number-following.

It is imperative that scratch cards and the lottery are not ignored when legislators review the Gambling Act. We very much hope to hear from others soon to provide us with evidence-based logic and facts around this subject so we can be armed with all the tools necessary to ensure that those that have suffered and continue to suffer from disordered gambling linked to scratch cards, can be represented by us when such important discussions are due to be held.