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National Lottery is a bad deal for poor

National Lottery is a bad deal for poor

The National Lottery represents a bad deal for Britain's poor, according to a new report launched today by the theology think tank Theos.

Using a combination of polling undertaken by ComRes and analysis of existing research into the Lottery, the report reveals that people in Britain's lowest socio-economic groups are more likely to play the lottery than their more affluent counterparts, but they are less likely to benefit from lottery funding.

In summary, the research finds that:

  • People in C2 and DE categories are significantly more likely to play scratch cards than their counterparts in AB and C1 categories (34% and 25%, compared with 20% and 18% respectively, playing once a month or more). Those in receipt of state benefits are more likely to play scratch cards (26%) than those who are not (22%);
  • C2 respondents are the most likely to play draw-based games, with over 67% of interviewees in this category participating once a month or more, compared with 47% of ABs;
  • Spending on scratch cards is higher among lower socio-economic groups:
  • C2s spend £70.60 per year, while ABs spend £40.64 per year, and the average across the whole sample is £44.18;
  • On average, people who earn less than £20,000 spend £55.39 per year on scratch cards, compared with the national average of £44.18;
  • Spending is, therefore, considerably higher as a proportion of income in lower income categories (i.e., the average annual spend, £44.18, equates to 0.2% of the income of a household earning £25,000 but 0.4% of the income of a household bringing in £10,000);
  • On average, people spend £142.88 on draw-based games annually. Those earning £15,000-20,000 per year have an average annual stake of £174.53;
  • Looking specifically at frequent players of draw-based games, those earning £15,000-£20,000 per year have an average weekly stake of £6.73 (£349.96 pa or at least 1.74% of annual household income), the same as respondents with a household income of over £75,001 per year (£349.96 pa or less than 0.47% of annual household income);
  • C2s and DEs are the most committed Lottery players, 28% of whom,in each case, say that a reduction in the maximum prize money or withdrawing funding from local projects would not prevent them playing the National Lottery, compared with 20% of ABs;
  • The research not only examines Lottery spending, but also where Lottery funding is distributed. Insufficient funding is being invested back into Britain's deprived communities. For example, Blaenau Gwent is the poorest area in the UK, having the highest average IMD score of 67.50. However, it ranks only 133rd when it comes to the amount of lottery funding it receives. Bridgend is ranked second using the IMD index but only 224th in terms of the amount of lottery funding it receives.

Commenting on the research, Paul Woolley, Director of Theos, said:

"This research adds to a growing body of evidence which shows that Lottery players come from poorer backgrounds. They also spend significantly more, especially as a proportion of their household income, than more affluent players. 

"National Lottery distributors have an obligation to ensure that all parts of the country have fair access to funds and that awards should be made with a view to reducing economic and social deprivation. In reality, Lottery funding across all the streams – arts, sports, heritage and charitable expenditure – is insufficiently targeted on the communities that need it most.

"The Lottery might have created a new source of funding for projects that would otherwise have remained un-funded, but this has come with a high price tag for Britain's poor. This is about social justice. If the Lottery is to continue, it is essential that a greater proportion of funding is invested back into the communities from which it is taken. 

"The old argument that the National Lottery is a 'tax' on the poor for the benefit of the middle classes may have some justification."


To see the full polling data, click here. To view grants by Local Authority or region, click here. To download the report, click here.

ComRes interviewed 1019 GB adults on behalf of Theos using an online questionnaire between 5 and 7 December 2008. Data were weighted to be representative demographically of all GB adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Social Grade is the socio-economic classification used by the market research and marketing industries. Definitions are as follows: AB respondents are higher or intermediate managerial or  administrative professionals; C1 respondents are supervisory, clerical, junior managerial or administrative professionals; C2 respondents are skilled manual workers while DEs are semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers or those who are unemployed or on state benefits.

Elizabeth Oldfield

Elizabeth Oldfield

Elizabeth was Theos’ Director from August 2011 – July 2021. She appears regularly in the media, including BBC One, Sky News, and the World Service, and writing in The Financial Times.

Posted 11 August 2011


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