Tunbridge Wells lottery launched to counter budget cuts

The Fairfax Gallery 2

Lucky Tunbridge Wells residents could soon find themselves thousands of pounds richer after the borough council’s plans to launch a local lottery came a step closer last week.

Wishing to emulate the success of the ‘Hive Lotto‘ in Tonbridge, which was launched at the start of September, members of the Communities Cabinet Advisory Board approved plans to agree a contract with an external lottery manager.

The current proposals will be voted upon by cabinet at the end of the month, followed by a debate in full council.

Matching six numbers on £1 tickets will win £25,000, while five numbers will see the ticket-holder benefit to the tune of £1,000.

Smaller prizes, including free tickets for the next draw, will be handed out to those with fewer matched numbers.

The initiative is intended to help local good causes and is seen as an ‘innovative’ way of ensuring cuts to central government community grants do not take their toll on the town’s many voluntary organisations.

Intending it to be a weekly draw, the council is suggesting that 60 per cent of the proceeds from sales is used to fund community groups, while 20p in the pound goes towards prizes and the remainder pays the costs of the lottery operator and VAT.

Players buying the tickets online will also be able to specify which of the good causes they wish to contribute to, with 50p of the £1 ticket then being allocated to their choice and the remaining 10p going into a central fund.

Gatherwell Ltd, a company which was established in 2013 and was responsible for the launch of the UK’s first online local authority lottery on behalf of Aylesbury Vale District Council, is being suggested as the potential operator for Tunbridge Wells.

A borough council report on the issue states the proposed lottery has been ‘generally well received’ by its current community grant recipients.

However, it does note that organisations providing money and debt advice have expressed some concerns about how appropriate it might be for them to participate in a lottery, ‘as is to be expected’.

Well received

Liberal Democrat Cllr Peter Lidstone, who sits on the Communities Cabinet Advisory Board, has come out in opposition to the scheme.

“I am supportive of good causes, but not of the council lottery, on a couple of grounds. I think it targets those on low incomes, who are not necessarily the same individuals the council wants to encourage to be donating to good causes.

“Also I am not convinced that a council should be running a lottery. Even if the prize money is coming from the provider, and not from council tax, I still think it has potential to confuse people.

“And with 17p in the pound going to the company running it, I don’t think it’s the best use of people’s funds, even if they are only playing to give to good causes.”

If the project is approved by cabinet and full council, there are plans to sign up Gatherwell early next month, with website development and consent from the gambling commission meaning the first draw is likely to be in April next year.

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