Tom with David, the lottery’s co-founder and his partner of 43 years.

The Rainbow Lottery is featured in The Guardian newspaper!

26 June 2023

A new start after 60: I’m gay but had done nothing for LGBTQ+ people. So I used my pension to launch a lottery

At 72, Tom Gattos says he is penniless but happier than ever. And his Rainbow Lottery has barely got going
 
 
 During lockdown, Tom Gattos liked to play the national lottery. “There was nothing else to do,” he says. Checking the winning numbers one Sunday, it occurred to him that he and his partner, David, “really should be playing a lottery that supports the LGBTQ+ community”. They looked around online but couldn’t find one. “We thought: ‘We’ve got this little pension pot saved. Why don’t we invent the Rainbow Lottery?’” In June 2021, Gattos, who was 70, announced the first set of winning numbers.

Two years on, the Rainbow Lottery has amassed more than 1,700 players, signed up 150 good causes to support, and raised more than £100,000 a year for everything from the Terrence Higgins Trust to local Pride groups. But Gattos hopes for more. “We have only just scratched the surface,” he says. “There are supposed to be 4 million LGBTQ+ people in the country.”

 

The Rainbow Lottery is a not-for-profit organisation, and neither of its founders takes a salary. Gattos is an advertising copywriter and gets up at 4.30 each morning to do consultancy work before spending the rest of the day on the lottery. “Consequently, we are penniless,” he says. In two years, the only new item of clothing he has bought is a rainbow-coloured shirt. So why did he and David put themselves in a place of financial stress at this point in their lives?

“Maybe it’s a primal thing to do something important before you die,” he says. “We don’t have any children. We lived our lives in a bubble. I’m an advertising copywriter; my partner’s an architect. I guess the pandemic brought us that much closer to death. It was like: ‘Oh my God, is this it? Quick, quick! What can we do?’ It was in my mind: what are we good at? We are good at being gay!”

Gattos, who grew up in Detroit, met David in London 43 years ago. “There was a pub on Kings Road that was only gay on Saturday lunchtimes: the Markham Arms. My friend and I used to cruise in there every Saturday, to see who we could see. He claimed he saw David first. All three of us went out to dinner that night and David chose me. We have been together ever since.”

“This is payback time for us,” he continues. “We are gay, but we’ve never done anything for the community.” The lottery has given him a new sense of belonging. “We are card-holding LGBTQ+ members now.”

This year, Gattos’s lottery was shortlisted at the Rainbow Honours for the new brand/organisation of the year award. Gattos has pictures of himself with Rylan Clark, Sinitta and Nicola Sturgeon. He had wondered as he got older: “What’s going to keep us active and busy and interested? If you had said to me a few years ago that I’d be meeting celebrities and dining with transgender people, I would have said, ‘What are you thinking?’” Now, he says, a richer “new life” has opened up.

Gattos says he has mostly avoided homophobia, despite living with David in Dubai for 13 years, though he has never felt comfortable “walking down the street holding hands”. But shortly before he had the idea for the lottery, he was walking in south-west London where he lives when the driver of a white van rolled down his window and yelled: “Fucking poof!”

“I thought: ‘Oh my God, London, in the 21st century, really?’ There are still people out there who need to know we are human beings as well.”

Two of Gattos’s brothers died last year, his sister shortly before. He is the last remaining sibling. “Life is about growing and expanding,” he says. “This money was supposed to last us the rest of our lives. We could have gone on spending it until we die. But we wanted to invest it in something solid, that we can do for the world. We don’t regret a single penny.”

 

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6,364 tickets of our 23,340 ticket goal

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Our causes are on track to raise £198,556.80 this year

27.27% Complete

6,364 tickets of our 23,340 ticket goal