Gambling with the nation's health?BMJ 1995; 311 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.311.7004.521 (Published 26 August 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:521
- Martin McKee,
- Franco Sassi
- Reader in public health medicine Health economist Health Services Research Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
The social impact of the National Lottery needs to be researched
The initial enthusiasm that greeted the National Lottery is giving way to cynicism in the face of bad publicity. The controversy about the payment of almost £13m for the Churchill archives1 was followed rapidly by the suicide of a man who had forgotten to buy his ticket2; criticism by the Public Accounts Committee of the £20m cost of distributing funds3; publication of unexpectedly high profits by Camelot (the lottery's organiser)4; and, finally, the evidence of the personal problems associated with large winnings and, especially, the much publicised disputes in a family that won £18m.5 While these dramatic events have captured the headlines, there is also a growing recognition that a system that takes a net £50m each week from the public may have adverse effects on society.
If the lottery widens inequalities of income it will have important implications for health, as shown by evidence of an association between inequality of income in industrialised countries and lower life expectancy.6 Within the United Kingdom there is an enormous body of data on inequalities in health,7 together with …