The National Lottery used to be fairly straightforward; you’d choose six numbers, then depending on how many numbers you got, you won a cash prize. Or, to be more accurate, you won bugger all, and somebody else won upwards of £10,000,000.
Nowadays it’s all Thunderballs, Daily Plays, Lotto Extras, Euromillions and strange gay purple unicorns, not to mention all the scratch cards and terrible, terrible game shows based around the picking of the numbers. And I still don’t win anything, so the whole gig is clearly fixed. Fixed!
It wasn’t the lottery that got me thinking, though; it was watching a few episodes of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, a tedious gameshow hosted by the equally-tedious Chris Tarrant that I watch occasionally if I’m unable to tune the TV into a different channel. For those not in the know, this is ostensibly a general knowledge quiz show, though when you have to answer a question like “In what order did the following four people leave the jungle in the last series of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here?” to become a contestant, I think the line dividing ‘General Knowledge’ and ‘Pointless Trivia’ has been crossed.
The correct answer is: “Nobody cares”
Anyway, the idea is you answer questions, and with each question answered correctly you win more money, gambling as you go, all the way up to a million pounds. What caught my attention, though, was how many people bail out around the £32,000 level, and it occurred to me that for most people, that’s an amount that could easily change their lives in a major way. Win a thousand pounds, and you could probably buy a pretty nice holiday or a really good TV, but win £32,000? I don’t know about you, but that would have a huge impact on my life. It would clear out all of my student debt and leave enough to allow me to rent and furnish a pretty nice place until I could save enough for a house. I could stock my new place with fine wines, cheeses, and every Nintendo console ever. I could even buy a 12″ Powerbook, and, well, that would be super. (In fact, why not pop over to my Amazon wishlist and buy me one right now?)
Looking at the other end of the scale — let’s say a cool million. Again, winning this amount would be a major life-changing event; forget about renting, I’d be buying. Forget about every Nintendo console ever, I’d be getting every console ever. I’d still get that 12″ Powerbook, though — they’re so slim and stylish (just like me). So, yes, a million would be great, but not necessary to have a massive effect on my life — once we pass that £30,000 mark, anything else is just gravy. This is why, I suspect, a lot of people on the gameshow will stop when they hit that level — because that’s enough to change their lives, and they don’t want to risk losing it to get more — losing £150,000 and ending up back at £32,000 would be bad, but losing £32,000 and ending up back at £1,000…well, I’d find that even more upsetting.
So, returning to the National Lottery; this last Saturday’s jackpot was £9,000,000, a fairly respectable windfall. But why not scrap that jackpot and cap the top prize at £30,000, then just give out more jackpots? 300 people could share that prize, and more so if we include the £150,000 sub-jackpot prizes.
But would people enter if they weren’t tempted in by the enormous prize?