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Robbing Peter to Pay Piers…

In our divisive and identity obsessed times, with everyone split and sectioned off in to ever diminishing pigeon holes – consensus is in such short supply, unless it’s the media which everyone seems to agree has much to answer for. Editorially for its influence and commercially for what it thrusts upon us.

Here in the UK at least, radio listeners are forced to suffer an array of irksome commercials with grating jingles and jarring and clawing voice-overs; and the annoyance heightened by their interminable frequency.

Worldwide brands vying for our attention, trying to flog us their dubious wares, often with life shortening qualities.

I’m thinking of the fast food behemoths offering fat laden food delivered directly to our door and the gambolling platforms tantalising us with untold riches whilst relieving unsuspecting people of their cash.

I reserve most of my ire for the National Lottery with their incessant, smug and grating commercials. The Lottery is the acceptable and sanitised face of gambling. Somehow it occupies a higher moral ground than the bookies on the high street or the on-line poker/casino sites where people can play anonymously and I imagine with recently delivered fast food.

But the Lottery is no better, not really. It promises much but delivers little for those who play at least – the extraordinarily unlikely chance to become rich “beyond your wildest dreams” – an offering taken up predominantly by people short of cash and therefore money they can ill-afford to lose.

Presently, they have a particularly unnecessary sales angle, explaining all the good deeds that are accomplished with the proceeds of its customers gambling. They never use the word gambling of course. They prefer ‘play’ because it’s so much fun, right?

I don’t ‘play’ the lottery and probably because I am already (relatively) rich. I don’t mean sports car rich but I tend not to worry about the cost of things. The essential things anyway, like food and heat… so I guess I am a winner already, then?  I don’t feel much in common with the people I see queuing in my local convenience store to buy their lotto tickets, or place their bets. None of them seem aware of the odds against, or perhaps they do but their judgement is skewed by the enormous riches on offer. As the queue shuffles forward with cash in hand – it doesn’t strike me as a line of winners and of course 99.99% of them aren’t.

This week’s jackpot on the National Lottery is a mere £107,000,000 – a big win by anyone’s reckoning but just imagine how many people must be in with a ‘chance’ for such a jackpot to be available – all secure in the knowledge that at least their money is going to good causes… like the comfortable salaries of the administrators and the voice over artist who is filling his boots each week – surely the only genuine winner from the lottery.

Back in my more successful days, I was approached by a tobacco company. They wanted to put my jokes/observations into their packets of cigarettes in the hope that smokers might like to collect them. I declined the gig and not just because I couldn’t see it working.

More recently I was booked by a tobacco company to entertain their best retailers. Backstage and chatting with the board of directors it became apparent that not one of us smoked – an awkward reality, it hung in the air like cigarette smoke.

A theme to the current crop of lottery commercials is “make your wildest dreams come true” – and jokily it suggests this might be “flying around the world in your very own private jet.”

People who make their money are much more likely to keep it than people who win it.

It is well known that many big lottery winners quickly burn through even the most enormous jackpots and I imagine buying private jets would do this easily enough.

The National Lottery is little more than a tax. A  tax on poor people because the rich don’t play – although they often do gain from the lottery with grants for the opera, ballet or the equestrian centre.

Robbing Peter to pay Piers.

Gambling is a scourge which blights many lives. Drive down a high street in any deprived area and see the disproportionate numbers of betting shops and fast food outlets.

The lottery must have metrics that show the biggest revenue areas coincide with areas of deprivation. The juxtaposition of news bulletins about the unaffordable cost of living butting up against adverts with eye watering jackpots and how to buy and fly your own private jet.

The government is complicit also – happy for its large revenue stream that gambling provides and never mind the misery.

This all denied of course. No one is forced to play and gambling is a legitimate form of entertainment. And it’s restricted to adults only and grown-ups should be responsible.  Which is fine, only a great many adults are not. Vulnerable people from challenging backgrounds; these are the people in the cross hairs of the gambling outfits.

Please gamble responsibly they implore at the end of their ads – no doubt to comply with toothless regulations but they don’t mean it of course.

These platforms want losers. It’s how they get paid.

I’ve done a few Voice Overs in my time – but if I’m ever heard doing a v/o for the Lottery, you can assume either I am completely skint or more likely that my moral compass is askew.



Later this year, I will publish a new novel, Made in England (3rd July) and then the audio version of Eclipsed – read by Dom and in conversation with Tom – if you like to get an inside track (previews and snippets) on these publications (plus Takes Vol.2), you are very welcome to join my book club.






4 thoughts on “Robbing Peter to Pay Piers…”

  1. I really enjoyed the blog this week!

    “The National Lottery is little more than a tax. A tax on poor people because the rich don’t play [. . .].” I’m going to tell my parents that the next time they ask me to pick up some lottery tickets. I think they’re a little disappointed that I didn’t inherit the desire to play, in my opinion, a pointless game.
    My dad once said, “Well, you can’t win if you don’t play,” to which I replied, “But if you don’t play, then you can’t lose.”

    I also read “The Surgeon”, and really liked your style of writing. A little white lie, or lies, never hurt anybody. Thanks for providing it first for free to your Book Club!

  2. I agree with parts of what you say but not quite all of it.

    Did make me remember this news article from a few years ago highlighting when it’s rollovers and prize pots of nine figures, the social economic background of the players changes. It’s from 2017 but doubt if things have changed that much. Thought you would find it interesting:

    “Whenever the jackpot gets above £70m to £80m, that’s when we have to think about a range of additional staff [to] cover the store,” said Peter Wagg, owner of the News of the Wharf store at Canary Wharf, one of the best-selling EuroMillions stores in London this week.

    “This is not the first mega lottery draw we’ve had. In the past, we’ve actually had to have security to organise a queueing system because the lines have gone out of the door.”

    Mr Wagg said huge jackpots tended to attract huge wagers. On one occasion a City worker purchased £15,000 worth of “lucky dips” tickets — when a terminal randomly selects lottery numbers — paying in bundles of £50 notes.’

  3. I consider my $20 weekly lottery purchase just another dream i’m chasing – but have the common sense to know I’ll never catch it. Like being 20 years younger and 20 lbs lighter. Ya have to keep dreaming – its rough out there!

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