ON YOUR MARKS, get set... go buy a lottery ticket!
The National Lottery began in earnest this week, and within the first 12 hours L7 million was raised by chance-takers hoping to strike lucky.
Amidst the hype, the excitement and the gambling fever, the question still lurks: will the National Lottery prove a force for the good?
Or will it merely serve to divert public attention from matters of true import namely, the conduct of the governing class in matters both private and public?
For Catholics, there are a number of issues raised by the National Lottery chief among them, the effect that the lottery will have on our charities. CAFOD and other Catholic charities joined forces last week to raise the alarm about the possible re-channelling of funds that the lottery will promote now. Yes, out of every pound we spend on our lottery ticket 28 pence go to charities. But which charities? Why is the Camelot group allowed to decide which do-gooding group will benefit from the National Lottery, while we, the public, are kept in the dark about the ultimate destination of our funds?
And, too: how good is it for a Government already all too eager to abdicate responsibility for so many public services to shield itself behind the catch-all sponsorship of the National Lottery? Public funds for public service seems to strike present politicos as an archaic policy and here is a perfect opportunity to pass the buck to an outside institution.
Do you want sport, the opera, or merely good museums to flourish? Don't look to Westminster, look to Camelot! Do you think more funds should be pumped into helping the homeless, those affected by some disability, or orphans? Then don't campaign for a better welfare system instead, help Camelot help the citizens help themselves.
Finally, when is the purchase of a lottery ticket a harmless flutter, and when iS it a symptom of a far more insidious evil gambling addiction? Already Gamblers Anonymous has raised concern that gamblers will seize on the National Lottery as an excuse to indulge in their vice placing their homes in jeopardy, their families' welfare at risk, and, sometimes, sacrificing their own lives.
The National Lottery merits though it was never granted a careful study, a wide-ranging consultation that would point to its advantages while warning us of its potential pitfalls. And also to remind us that despite what the lottery masters would have us think, life is not about winners or losers.