Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 456 - 459)



  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.

Mr Fearn

  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 country—as it is has, for example, in North America and Australia, to introduce faster and faster games—then I would have thought, for the interests of the National Lottery and the British people, that it has to be very tightly regulated.

  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.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 23 January 2001