Examination of Witness (Questions 480
THURSDAY 14 DECEMBER 2000
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.
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
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
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
(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
(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.