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A Skelding Summary

We've all done it at least once - feel sheepish and swear there will never be a repetition. Yet we can't resist the urge to do it again... Have a scratch... Have a flutter... Just this once - you understand. Ours isn't the first 'National Lottery'. That honour falls to the Italians who created La Lotto in 1863 and upon which - housey housey - Bingo is based.

Gambling is one of the earliest human activities on record As old as adding up numbers. As mentioned in the Bible, Moses was instructed by the Almighty to find out how many Israelites there actually were - and then draw lots to redistribute the Holy Land between themselves. This funnily enough, comes in Old Testament Chapter 'Numbers'.

In Ancient Rome when the gladiators had all killed each other - or the lions were suffering from indigestion, lotteries were promoted to give away slaves & properties on feast days.

The idea behind lotteries is quite simple. It raises public money to fund particular projects with minimal Government involvement or expenditure. The earliest European lotteries date from the 1400s and originate in France and Flanders - local government money raised to build city walls and to help the poor & sick. The first lottery which gave away cash prizes was "La Lotto di Firenze" (Florence) in 1530. The English Royalty got in on the act shortly afterwards - lotteries under Elizabeth I being used to repair harbour facilities and procure vessels vital in our fight against Spain. They became a regular feature of English life until 1826 when they were banned because of widespread corruption, profiteering and a general sense that encouraging gambling was not such a terribly good thing after all.

Almost 170 years then elapsed before the Ministry of National Heritage, Camelot and the BBC (keen to beat ITV in the ratings war) decided to emulate the success of the Irish National Lottery and resurrect the idea on the grounds that it was good fun and was a way of taxing the public without them even knowing. It also gave Mystic Meg something to do on a Saturday night. As for profiteering, History may alter perceptions, however many people find it odd that Branson offered to run the National lottery for NO profit, distributing the wealth ONLY to winners and good causes.

Yet the government decided to give the franchise back to Camelot who don't do that at all. 'History is the daughter of Time'.

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By Laurence Skelding

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