By Denis Campbell
As long as it takes… £3MM pounds/hour wagered last Friday, jackpot now ‘stuck’ on £166MM until won, two people won £3.3MM instead of £200K (new advertising meme) and lots of justifying. How long and for how many weeks can Camelot whip everyone into a fury week after week after week collecting 25-30% more each week and offering great ‘2nd place’ excess prizes? Who knows?
Granted, the News of the World story is sucking all of the media oxygen but this too should be big news. Camelot and The National Lottery’s EuroMillions game has not seen a jackpot fall since 24 May(!) At 116MM:1 odds that is actuarily predictable. The game changed on 10 May and now Europe-wide over-gambling (now even spilling into Asian syndicates) and frothing at the mouth punters will have a huge go weekly until it is won? It’s a game designer’s dream! The Jackpot Pool Cap actually works in their favour more so than letting it rise to £300MM+.
I stood behind the woman shown here in a large grocery store as she wagered £167 non-syndicate pounds, meaning money out of her pocket! I watched as she payed for the last £47 of those tickets with the stacks of £5 notes and £1 coins you see on the left from a jar (out of the picture to her left). She bet what she called “the loose change household fund” on this huge jackpot. I followed her, identified myself as a journalist and on condition of anonymity she told me “at this level of jackpot they had to take a chance.” We’ll call her Jan. Jan works in a chemist (pharmacy) for a large UK chain preparing and dispensing prescriptions.
While I cannot presume to judge (nor did I ask) her income, in Wales the average salary is £20,000 per year. £167 against an average weekly salary of £384 per week (before taxes) translates into wagering one half of her (likely) weekly net salary on this ‘eye-popping, mouth-watering’ (Camelot’s advert terms) jackpot? Will she back again on Tuesday? Next Friday?
The queue in this store had 20-people waiting for the one machine despite two tills open. Many were patiently holding multiple play slips. ‘Ed’ was behind me in the queue and he wagered a more reasonable £70(!) for himself and his family. I asked him and the gaggle around him, (as we all waited for Jan’s tickets to print out) if they knew the odds for winning? All said “No.”
When I told them they used to be 72.3MM:1 back in May but with the game change were now 116.5MM:1, they looked stunned. When I added we had a better chance of being struck by a bolt of lightning 10x than winning, most shrugged. One person said: “You gotta play to win.”
Brainwashing completed. The lambs are voluntarily and knowingly standing in the pen in an orderly queue awaiting the slaughter. That is the sheer marketing genius of Camelot!
Having played lottery game my entire life, I wagered my £2 on a lucky dip. One ticket/draw, just like my Dad did. I play tournament poker, a skill gambling game, so this is not an anti-gambling rant. Yes, odds do fall to zero if you don’t play and the lack of restraint and this ‘skirting the border’ marketing gives the average punter the idea they could win this enormous jackpot? It is tragic at best, deceitful at worst. Where are Ofcom, Office of Fair Trading Practices, the Main Stream Media or the public outrage? They’re not willing to go after hopeless causes because Camelot not only drew the line but wrote the book and know exactly with what they can and cannot get away.
And I would bet most inside Camelot are praying it is won Tuesday and this article series goes away because this would become a major PR disaster for them if it goes an entire 8th week without falling, the average punter catches on and realises they have no chance of winning the advertised jackpot prize.
I understand that a lottery is a tax for those not understanding odds. Having once won £130 (woo-hoo!) the rush is huge. And for the calendar year (and since researching this story) over the last 7 weeks I’ve won £37. And I stood in the sports club during a break in the poker tournament last night watching as a young man pump £1 pound coin after coin into a slot machine also thinking he would win big! The house (Camelot) wins most of the £200 per year I wager. The house ALWAYS wins or else they would not offer the game. I get that.
But the adverts have brainwashed a very large number of people, the ones who can least afford it, into wagering record amounts of real money and no one sees a problem with that in the government, Camelot or the “good causes” because they are the beneficiaries?
Term and conditions liability shield be damned. How is any of this truly fair play? While not at the standard of hacking cell phone voicemails, it’s pretty high on the deceit scale to take that much money from those who can least afford it by goading them with pictures of yachts and butlers, 300 point typeface numbers on posters and repeating £166 million pounds enough times to get them thinking they could win this huge amount of money… that everyone knows they can’t.
But when the government is in on the deal, what do you expect?