Examination of Witness (Questions 460
THURSDAY 14 DECEMBER 2000
460. In this country?
(Dr Fisher) Absolutely. I have personally conducted,
under the auspices of the Lottery Commission, previously OFLOT,
three studies. We are now on the third. The first study was a
baseline study. We looked at 10,000 children. We looked particularly
at their playing of scratchcards because there had been so much
anecdotal evidence of kids getting hooked on these scratchcards.
I had also put forward the hypothesis that when the National Lottery
was introduced into this country, it was introduced into a totally
different environment with regard to child gambling, than any
other country in the world. That is, we already had a mature existing
market for fruit machine playing amongst young children. I hypothesised
that the National Lottery would inevitably tap into that, and
we would see that children who already had problems with fruit
machines, were very likely to have problems with scratchcards.
They would add them to their repertoire. What was interesting,
of course, was whether the National Lottery itself would result
in more young problem players. In that study we found that National
Lottery scratchcards had added to the proportion of problem gamblers
amongst 12 to 15 year-olds by 18 per cent.
461. That is quite high.
(Dr Fisher) That is on scratchcards alone. That is
just scratchcards. We just looked at fruit machines and scratchcards.
462. So has that evidence gone to the Government?
Do they know about this? Does the Minister know?
(Dr Fisher) I presume they know. It has been published.
The Lottery Commission have done two studies, each with samples
of 10,000 children. Presumably the Government have the information.
It has been published in an academic journal as well. If I could
make another point on scratchcards, which I think is really key.
I have made the point already that they are a much faster form
of gambling and, therefore, a much more addictive form of gambling
than the Lottery draw. It is not quite as bad but it is almost
like comparing the old-fashioned pools, with a very long wait
after putting on your wager and finding out the results, and the
roulette wheel. It is not quite as extreme but it is getting that
way. During 1999 under the Lottery Commission we looked at 10,000
children and their participation in the National Lottery. We took
that data in July 1999 and we found that in the week prior to
the survey, 11.6 per cent of 12 to 15 year oldschildren
for whom the National Lottery was never intendedhad spent
their own money on National Lottery scratchcards. Exactly the
same question, using the same words, was asked in a later study
which was undertaken by Gamcare, in September 1999, just a few
months later. There were about 8,500 in the Gamcare study sample,
and they found only 6 per cent of adults had spent their own money
on scratchcards in the week prior to the Lottery. So what we have
in this country is a situation where more 12 to 15 year olds are
buying these scratchcards, harder forms of gambling, than adults
for whom they were intended.
Mr Fearn: That is appalling. Thank you
Mrs Organ: I am not a gambler, I have
never placed a bet, I have never bought a Lottery ticket
Mr Maxton: Yes you have!
Mrs Organ: Oh yes! No, I was given one
Mr Maxton: Sorry!
463. I was given one in New York and I actually
won on it, but it did not make me addicted to it!
(Dr Fisher) That is dangerous, winning the first time!
464. I want you to tell me a little about the
effects of gambling in the UK. You have just talked about your
study revealing it was 11 per cent of young people who were gambling,
but what are the numbers of people who are compulsive gamblers,
both adults and children, in the UK, or the percentage of the
population, and how has it changed, say, in the last 25 years
with betting shops and then the introduction of the Lottery? Can
you give me a picture of how compulsive gambling is affecting
our whole population and our children?
(Dr Fisher) I wish I could. One thing I pushed very
hard for before the National Lottery was introduced was a base
line study of what was going on in gambling in this country, so
we would have a benchmark to compare future statistics with, so
we could look at the impact of the National Lottery on those figures.
It did not happen. The best information we have is for children,
although the data was collected after the National Lottery was
introduced. The only major study which has been done of adults
in this country on gambling is the one recently done by Gamcare
into about 8,500 adults over 16. They used two different measures
but I think they found the rate was something like 1.8 per cent,
but I am not certain and would have to check that.
465. So, in other words, we really do not know
the impact of the Lottery and the instant cards on getting people
becoming compulsive gamblers; we just do not know.
(Dr Fisher) No. Can I say that there are two impacts.
First of all, there is the impact, and I am sure this Committee
has heard a lot about it, of representations from other sections
of the industry screaming for a fair playing field saying their
markets and their employment possibilities have been eroded by
the National Lottery, "Therefore give us concessions please."
I have published some information on this which I am very happy
to share with you, if you have not already seen it. They have
been very successful in achieving quite major concessions so there
has been a massive deregulation of the entire gambling industry
with the National Lottery acting as a catalyst. The other impact
on gambling is going to come because of this tension that we have
between raising as much money as we can for good causes and doing
it in a way which is ethical, which is not going to damage families,
and in a way that the peoplemost of whom have left nowinvolved
in charities, who are very concerned about the people they raise
money for, are going to find acceptable. For example, we know
from studies in America that poorer people tend to play the Lottery,
and if you look at the proportion of revenue which comes from
poorer people and addicted gamblers, they are quite significant.
466. Is that the case here in the UK as well,
that it is poorer people who are spending more of their income
or are more compulsive gamblers?
(Dr Fisher) We do not know as far as the National
Lottery is concerned because all of the figures which are published
are based on expenditure per head. That is a bit like saying,
"Everybody in this room is aged 40", it tells us absolutely
nothing. To obtain more telling information, we would need to
look at what is happening at the margins. So, for example, let
us look at the top 5 per cent who are spending most on the Lottery,
see if they are problem gamblers, let us see what demographic
groups they come from, and then we will have some information
which will tell us something important.
467. We are obviously most concerned about children
and under-age gambling, because that may lead to other things.
Is there any evidence in any of the studies that children who
play fruit machines or buy Instants go on to even more
and more gambling; the sort of argument there is about soft and
hard drugs, soft and hard porn?
(Dr Fisher) The only information we have is from studies
that look back in time and they have all been done on men, but
if you look at studies of males having treatment for gambling
problems, the cut-off point is under the age of 14 or 15. In fact
I have done a large study on casino gamblers in this country where
we did 1,100 face-to-face interviews in 40 casinos. I found that
severe problem gamblers and problem gamblers were significantly
more likely to have had started when they were under 14 years
of age, than the social gamblers.
468. So it is important we regulate and stop
(Dr Fisher) It is vital.
469. How do you feel about identity cards being
used as a practical way of stopping under-age Lottery players?
(Dr Fisher) When I first heard this idea I thought
it was really good until I mentioned it to some of the kids in
the local youth club and they said, "Yes, it is great, we
can make those in technical drawing . . .", or whatever,
I do not know what they call the class, ". . . we can borrow
one and copy it." In practice it is a good idea. I think
the more practical suggestion which I would put forward, and I
know I am not alone in this, would be to raise the age of all
gambling for money to 18. I am sure then we would get 17 and 16
year olds playing but what we would not get would be the 12 and
13 year olds, hopefully.
470. Camelot at the moment uses Operation Child
where it goes round to where its terminals are and does checks
on whether its operators are behaving correctly. How do you feel
about that as being an effective control and a way of alerting
retailers to the problem of under-age gambling?
(Dr Fisher) The purpose of the study we are doing
at the moment, like the 1999 study, is precisely to monitor the
effectiveness of Camelot's measures. I would say that I am impressed
by their commitment but there is a way in which the buck is being
passed, from Parliament, to the operator, to the retailer, and
the buck stops with the retailer. We have not actually had a public
hanging of a retailer yet but the blame seems to be laid at their
feet. I would see it at a different societal level. One thing
we know beyond doubt from the 1997 study is that the children
who are problem gamblers of scratchcards are very much more likely
to have parents who play, who do not mind if they play, and are
also more likely to be sitting down with their mums and dads watching
the National Lottery and getting the family feed-back that the
National Lottery is not gambling, it is
471. It is entertainment.
(Dr Fisher) it is family entertainment. If
there is one thing that upsets me more than anything it is the
euphemism and the lack of plain speaking when the National Lottery
is addressed. The National Lottery draw is a fairly benign form
of gambling; the scratchcards are not. Forms of gambling which
are planned are akin to the fastest casino games and yet the British
public never expected this, they expected just a weekly draw,
and they are getting all these mixed metaphors that it is good
family fun, watch with your children, in fact the programmes are
very much geared to young people. I think they must be confused.
472. We know that there are cases where parents
purchase tickets on behalf of their under-16 year olds. You have
just given the picture of the Lottery being, shall we say, family
entertainment, family fun, albeit it is a form of gambling. Lots
of research shows that possibly the most benign way of introducing
alcohol to young people is within the family in a controlled way,
in a responsible way, as part of one's social life. Do you not
take the view that actually parents purchasing for their under-16s
and sitting as a family and saying, "Didn't win this week,
never mind. Look, there's Anthea Turner, she's done her hair again",
is all part of the introduction of light gambling which people
are involved in in society?
(Dr Fisher) Yes, I do agree with you there. It really
depends what age groups we are looking at because children are
particularly vulnerable. Yes, I agree, there is a responsible
parental role but unfortunately not all parents are responsible
or necessarily give that message, or, to be fair, necessarily
understand the way that technology is affecting gambling to make
it very much more addictive. I worked for some months on giving
out change in the change box in an amusement arcade doing research,
and I saw lovely families picking up two or three year-old children
so they could put their money in the slot machine and see the
wheels go round. These were loving parents on a family holiday
but what they did not understand, and I knew because I had looked
into it, was that the machines are extremely addictive and that
the younger you are there is a direct correlation with vulnerability.
473. Do you have any concerns about the technological
developments we are going to have, such as being able to buy over
the Internet or on inter-active television? Will it spiral out
of our control, or is it possible to regulate it and keep it as
the National Lottery has been?
(Dr Fisher) No, it would be impossible to regulate
it. The only sort of games you will be able to play on your television
screen or on a mobile phone by their nature have to be the very
hard gambling games. The criteria for those are that they have
a very short and very arousing span of play and that you have
an immediate opportunity to play again, so when you are chasing
your losses, when the adrenalin is going, you can go for it. There
are no other games you can effectively play. Possibly you could
play the draw on the Internetyou could book a ticket for
the drawbut the games they have planned will be of that
nature; casino games. Anything played on the Internet is virtually
impossible, it seems to me, to even think of regulating.
474. But why is it a bad thing? It is like bungee-jumping,
I would not want to do it but if you can afford it and it gives
you a great thrill and a great buzz, why not do it? The same with
gambling, what is so wrong with it if people choose to spend their
money in that way?
(Dr Fisher) I have already mentioned that the Lottery
draw seems to me to have been successful and the money raised
has done a lot of good things. What I am saying is that children
need protecting and the adults need further information about
the games. They have it about cigarettes, they have it about alcohol,
they can make their free choices, but they have the information.
I do not believe there is that information on gambling and I believe
that information on the National Lottery has been almost, I would
say, deliberately concealed from its very conception when it was
put forward. I think probably a lot of MPs did not understand
(a) it was going to be a form of gambling and (b) it was going
to progress to a harder and harder form.
Mrs Organ: But why is gambling wrong?
Even harder forms of gambling?
Chairman: I think we are going a bit
475. All right then.
(Dr Fisher) You would have to talk to a problem gambler
but the thing about gambling problems is that they cause family
break-downs, they cause loss of jobs, they cause loss of productivity,
a very high suicide rate. I could go into it but it is well documented.
Mr Maxton: What percentage of the population
are addicted gamblers as opposed to alcoholics or addictive smokers?
It is tiny, is it not?
Chairman: Or users of soft drugs.
476. Yes, users of soft drugs or hard drugs,
for that matter. It is a much smaller proportion, is it not?
(Dr Fisher) With all due respect, I am not so sure
I see the relevance of that. The most important thing it seems
to me is that where these things are legal in societyand
for a start I do not believe those things are state-sponsored
477. The state takes a very substantial part
of the money.
(Dr Fisher) That is true but they were not introduced
by the state and they are not called "National Whisky"
or "Buy the National brand of cigarettes".
Mr Maxton: They did in Carlisle, briefly.
Chairman: The brewers did for a long
478. For a long time.
(Dr Fisher) Once something is state-sponsored, it
gives out the message that it is safe. I think that is okay if
it is okay, but if we are going to move along a route to harder
and harder forms of gambling, then people deserve to know. The
charities who are receiving the money deserve to know. You are
not going to know unless research is done and put in place to
monitor the impact. Having said that, there is enough being done
479. Would you like to see a warning label on
the bottom of an instant or the bottom of a Lottery ticket, "This
could damage your financial health"?
(Dr Fisher) I think that is a really good idea.