Playing this lottery is bad for your health

It doesn’t take a genius to work out why the National Lottery want you to think you can win, win win when you play one of their games.

Champagne corks pop and the party balloons go up and the attractive young couple take home the loot.

Of course you can win and some people do - even if they are more usually an elderly couple from a Scottish housing estate than the cavorting beauties on the television.

But you won’t. You will lose. Everyone loses, except a pitifully tiny infinitesimal minority.

What the ads should say, but don’t, is that you too could steal your child’s pocket money in the forlorn hope that for once a scratch card will pay off.

The fact that it is impossible to queue up to pay for a pint of milk anymore without a raft of these insidious dispensers filled with brightly coloured promises destined never to be fulfilled should be a national scandal.

But, since it’s the government which backs them, of course it isn’t.

Lottery ads on TV should be full of desperate people living in desperate places, desperately hoping for a tiny glimmer of hope against hope that things can ever get better.

The lottery has always been a tax on stupid people - only the rich can afford to waste the money and naturally they don’t need to.

And now there’s a new one -The Health Lottery - which had its first draw last night with a top prize of £100,000.

It sounds so wholesome - a health lottery, raising money to help sick people - what on earth could be wrong with that?

Pretty much everything, as it turns out.

Alarm bells started to ring as soon as it transpired that the brains behind this operation is none other than Richard Desmond.

Even his most ardent admirers would struggle to describe him as a philanthropist and his detractors - of which there are many - have plenty of better words for him.

According to its pre-launch publicity the Health Lottery is a lottery which is specifically designed to raise money for local health causes.

And they promise that 20p of every £1 ticket will go to these causes.

So what about the 80p that doesn’t then?

The National Lottery is far from perfect. In its infinite wisdom the Blair Government handed it to Camelot to run rather than accept Richard Branson’s offer of running it purely as a non-profit exercise to raise the maximum amount for good causes. There must have been a good reason for that, obviously. Or lots of them.

Camelot still manages to hand over 28p for every pound spent to charities and the like.

It turns out the Health Lottery’s 20p is the legal bare minimum any lottery has to give to charity before it is allowed to operate.

The only thing healthy about it is Mr Desmond’s bank balance.

Already charity chiefs are up in arms about Desmond’s scheme.

They were hit hard by the National Lottery and now here comes the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing ready to dip his paw ever deeper into the charity pot.

People who want to give money to their local charities by and large give money to their local charities.

People who want to kid themselves that they are going to win millions - or in this case a hundred grand - play lotteries.

Pretending that one is the same as the other doesn’t make it so.

Lord knows, there are plenty of worthy causes out there that genuinely need your help.

The Health Lottery is little more than a grubby and exploitative money-making enterprise for its owner - a bit like how he made his fortune in the first place, then.