Tickets for Northumberland's new lottery to boost worthy causes go on sale next year

Ticket sales for a new Northumberland Lottery to support local good causes are set to open in March next year, despite ongoing concerns.

By Ben O'Connell
Saturday, 23rd November 2019, 8:00 am
Updated Sunday, 24th November 2019, 1:31 am
Northumberland County Council's HQ in Morpeth.
Northumberland County Council's HQ in Morpeth.

This will be preceded by a push to get charities and community groups to sign up to be the beneficiaries, with each lottery player able to choose who they wish to support when buying a £1 ticket.

As previously reported, Northumberland County Council is setting up its own lottery, with at least half of every ticket sold going to the local causes.

Gatherwell, which runs lotteries for around 80 local authorities nationally, will manage the process, but the council is responsible for oversight and governance.

An update has been presented to the latest round of local area council meetings, setting out a more detailed timetable now that the local authority has obtained its licence from the Gambling Commission.

But there remains disquiet from some councillors, who think that the lottery promotes gambling and is not the right way to fund or support the voluntary sector.

At this week’s Cramlington, Bedlington and Seaton Valley Local Area Council, the leader of the opposition Labour group, Coun Susan Dungworth, who raised concerns when the proposal was announced earlier this year, said: “There’s evidence that lottery tickets are disproportionately bought by poor people and the money doesn’t go back into those communities.”

And at last week’s Ashington and Blyth Local Area Council, the Lib Dem group leader, Coun Jeff Reid, was even more critical.

“The Conservatives may have decided to do this, but I think it’s a terrible idea,” he said. “I’m shocked to the core that the council, sorry, the Conservative administration has decided to help people without much money to gamble through a website that we have got something to do with, I’m virtually speechless. This should have come to full council.”

Labour’s Coun Brian Gallacher added: “The gut feeling is that we are trying to give back money to groups who have had funding taken away by this administration and the national government.”

However, the proposal originated as a suggestion by council officers, not the administration, and it was backed by the cross-party corporate services committee in July before being approved by the cabinet in August.

At those meetings, Coun Nick Oliver, the Conservative cabinet member for corporate services, said: “This came about on the back of the popularity and success of the Community Chest programme.

“We want to try as a council to engage more with voluntary groups, community groups and charities and the way officers have found to do this could be potentially very strong.”

Addressing fears about gambling, he added: “I shared those concerns initially. Someone quite close to me was badly affected by gambling and I don’t approve of online gambling, but this is very different.

“This is really a community engagement exercise and there are restrictions in place. I share your concerns about gambling, but I don’t think this is going to contribute to the negative impacts.”

People will be able to buy £1 tickets through a website and choose which local charity or group they want to support, with 50p of each ticket going to the selected good cause.

Of the other half, 10p would go to the council to cover the running costs, with any excess going into the Community Chest scheme, while 37p would go to Gatherwell (20p for the prize fund and 17p for admin costs). The final 3p is VAT.

Players choose six numbers from 0 to 9, with prizes ranging from three free tickets for matching two numbers up to £25,000 for getting all six – albeit the odds of this are a million to one.

The prize fund is underwritten by Gatherwell, so there is no risk or exposure to the council.

*Susan Dungworth is the Labour candidate for Blyth Valley in the General Election along with Thom Chapman (Liberal Democrats), Dawn Furness (Green), Ian Levy (Conservative) and Mark Peart (Brexit Party).