Storm Clouds or Sunny Days for New Charity Lottery?
8 April 2016 at 3:15 pm
An Australian online charity lottery, offering players the chance to win $1 million every week for correctly guessing the weather, while donating 100 per cent of profits to local charities, was launched on Friday.
The Weather Lottery is set up as a Not for Profit, and spokesperson Joanne Edgar said that it would reshape the Australian lottery industry by combining the high demand for lotteries with supporting worthy causes.
“Weather Lottery will donate 100 per cent of all profits directly to charity, restoring the historic relationship that existed between charities and lotteries prior to the privatisation of state-owned lotteries,” Edgar said.
“Weather Lottery allows charities to raise substantial funds in a highly efficient way and at no cost to the charity, meaning they have more time to focus on their core objectives of delivering vital services and support to people in need.
“As all profits are donated to charity, the more people who play Weather Lottery, the more money the charities will receive. Players get the winnings and charities get the profits – it’s a win/win for everyone.”
Currently 20 per cent of ticket prices will go directly to the charity, with the aim of increasing the percentage as the number of players grows.
Edgar told Pro Bono Australia News that the Weather Lottery considered the sector’s concerns about the negative impact of problem gambling.
“That obviously was a concern from the beginning, but Australians are fairly fixated on what they spend both from a gambling perspective and from a charity perspective, so we’re a bit of a betting country, we seem to bet on everything,” she said.
“We worked with our charities to make sure that we had the right values in place, and certainly the charities that we brought on board all investigated that component as well because they didn’t want to send the wrong message to their supporters. And they were all very comfortable in the way it’s set up.
“We don’t believe there’s any ability for somebody to become addicted to gambling by playing this social products. It’s a very social gaming product, as opposed to a betting product.”
The organisation said it would leverage Australia’s national obsession with the weather, challenging players to correctly guess the temperature in seven capital cities at noon each weekday.
If players correctly guess the correct weather for each city, taken from the Bureau of Meteorology recordings, they will win $1 million. Participants can also win money from guessing as little as two correct numbers.
A subscription costs $25 per month and players receive a ticket each week. Participants are limited to one account per person, and the lottery only available to people 18 and over.
The Weather Lottery has partnered with four charities – the Mater Foundation, Variety the Children’s Charity, Cowboys Community Foundation and Wounded Heroes.
The charities were chosen from different industries, working in the health, children’s, Indigenous and armed service sectors respectively.
From Monday to Thursday the profits will be donated to one of the four charities, and on Friday the money will be split between them, with the player allocating their donation.
Edgar said that the organisation hoped it would “grow to be a cornerstone funding source for all of our charity partners”.
CEO of Community Council Australia David Crosbie told Pro Bono Australia News that Australia had a long history of relationships between lotteries and charities.
“Charities across Australia regularly accept funds from lotteries,” Crosbie said,
“Lottery funds have built major hospitals, research institutions and provided major funding over many years to many well-established and credible charities.”
However, he said that there were drawbacks to accepting donations from an outlet that has also contributed to social problems.
“At the same time, the promotion of gambling, particularly to disadvantaged people, is not consistent with building stronger and fairer communities,” he said.
“Often the costs of gambling are disproportionately borne by the poor while the profits are primarily provided to wealthy shareholders.”
Crosbie said it was interesting to note that the Weather Lottery described itself as a Not for Profit, with profits donated to charities rather than used to increase income for the organisation’s owners or shareholders.
He also said that transparency of Weather Lottery would be key.
“How the Weather Lottery publicly reports its activities including the income derived and distributed, will be important in determining the bona fides of the organisation,” he said.
“There is no doubt that the charities involved in the Weather Lottery are worthy charities doing good work.”
Edgar said that, as a Not for Profit, Weather Lottery would be open in its reporting practices.
“Our licence to operate the product is dependent on us passing on [all profits] through to the charities,” she said.
“We’ve actually incorporated the foundation ourselves, so all the money goes via ourselves through a foundation called the Top End Foundation, and it’s a designated gift recipient as well, and it’s monitored by an independent board of directors.”
Charities in Australia have varied approaches to accepting money from gambling, with some charities not accepting any money and some refusing money raised through specific types of gambling, such as poker machines.
“It can be difficult for organisations to set meaningful limits around the sources of their income or the investments they make,” Crosbie said.
“Ultimately it is up to each charity to decide if accepting money from a particular individual or group is consistent with their own values and the way the charity wants to pursue their purpose.
“This is one of those issues that many charities have very robust internal discussions about and it is important to continue to have those discussions, even when times are getting harder for fundraisers.”
In Pro Bono Australia’s inaugural Not for Podcast, released earlier this year, CEO of World Vision Australia and chair of CCA, Tim Costello, said that charity lotteries could actually diminish charitable donations.
He drew on the example of the national lottery in Britain, where charities said that they could not afford not to be in it “only for many of them to discover that their donations actually shrunk”.
“People started to say, my way of giving to charity is buying a ticket in the national lottery,” Costello said.
“In other words, I can have a win and still fulfill my charitable purpose. Once it gets muddied a little bit, it’s really problematic.”