A multi-stakeholder group of MPs called on ministers to consider action against national lottery operator Camelot, arguing that a move towards app-based games rather than traditional raffles risks worsening problem gambling and reducing amounts donated to good causes.
The move by Tory and Labor MPs comes after Camelot’s most recent results showed two-thirds of sales growth in 2020 and 2021 came from so-called instant win games, mostly online, a process in part caused by Covid lockdowns. Overall, mobile sales have grown from £ 1.606 billion in 2020 to £ 2.482 billion in 2021.
Ministers have previously expressed concern that the evolution of the lottery towards more online gambling could become “a gateway to compulsive gambling”, with the minimum age for participation being dropped from 16 to 18 this year.
MPs said 9% of revenue from instant win games, including scratch cards as well as online games, goes to community causes, compared to 31% of sales from raffle-based games. They said the proportion of overall sales contributed increased from 28% in 2012-13 to 21% in 2020-21.
Camelot, which offers to keep the lottery license it has held since its launch in 1994 beyond 2023, dismisses the criticisms, saying the growth in online sales also includes traditional sweepstakes purchased through the app and is part of it. a broader change in gambling habits. He also notes that overall amounts awarded to good causes have continued to increase and says his record on problem gambling is good.
More Alexander Stafford, the Rother Valley Conservative MP and one of seven “red wall” Conservatives who have already warned against Camelot’s business model, said it was “time to recruit someone who can handle the lottery properly national level and which can be more faithful to its founding values ”.
He said: “People trust the National Lottery as a brand and want to support its charitable mission statement. But these controversial instant win games are pushing people into a more dangerous form of gambling, putting vulnerable people at risk. “
Camelot’s annual report, released in June, hailed the growth in app-based sales due to a new home screen “with personalization, leveraging machine learning to deliver more relevant games to online gamers. depending on their gaming behavior ”, also noting“ an increase in traffic to digital channels due to Covid-19 ”.
Carolyn Harris, the Labor MP who chairs the multi-stakeholder group on gambling harms, said ministers should step in to change Camelot’s approach.
She said: “It is beyond belief, especially in a year when many people have struggled and charities are asking for funds. It is sickening that so little lottery money goes to charity and the government must ensure that it cannot happen again. “
A spokesperson for Camelot said app-based games have been around since 2015, with sales increasing in line with broader trends, and app-based games have generally increased amid pandemic restrictions, as less people were going to stores.
They said, “By giving people a choice of safe and enjoyable games to play, making these games attractive and generous to gamers, and allowing people to play in the way that suits them best, we generate record monetary returns. to the good causes of ticket sales, record cash prizes for players and record lottery duty payments to the Treasury – all in a responsible manner.
The Gambling Commission, which regulates the lottery, argues that app-based games require a higher price return than draws to attract players, and that it was more important that the overall amount allocated to good causes increases. He says he’s convinced Camelot’s games are relatively low risk.
The Canadian company Camelot faces competition from three other potential lottery operators to take over the license from 2023: the Czech group Sazka, which operates lotteries in its home country as well as in Greece, Italy and Switzerland. Austria; former Daily Express owner Richard Desmond; and Sisal, which operates in its native Italy as well as in Spain, Morocco and Turkey.