Under fire lottery provider Camelot could be facing action after a controversial switch to app-based gaming.
A parliamentary group, made up of both Conservative and Labour MPs, has claimed that a switch to online ‘instant win’ games could fuel a rise in problem gambling….if it hasn’t already.
It comes after Camelot revealed that of their sales growth in 2020-21, some 66% could be attributed to the new app games, which the operator insist were first launched in 2015.
And Alexander Stafford, the Tory MP and one of the fiercest critics of Camelot and their business model, has called for his government to ‘get someone in who can run the National Lottery properly.’
“People trust the national lottery as a brand and want to get behind its charitable mission statement,” he declared. “But these controversial instant win games are herding people towards a more dangerous form of gambling, putting vulnerable people at risk.”
A Good Cause?
One of the biggest talking points emerging from the growth of online sales is that the amount donated to charitable causes is lower.
Camelot has rejected the criticism coming their way, stating that an increase in the number of customers purchasing tickets and games via their app is representative of a wider shift in buying behaviour since the start of the pandemic.
But the issue is in how little is donated to charity – one of the founding principles of the National Lottery way back in 1994 – from the online sales. Just 9% of the proceeds from so-called instant win tickets is ploughed into the charitable fund, which can be compared to 31% of donations from traditional lottery ticket sales.
The implication is that while Camelot are making more money – online sales have leapt by £800 million year-on-year since the start of 2020 – they are, in real terms, donating less to charity, which is why many critics have accused them of not being fit for purpose.
Carolyn Harris, the all-party gambling group chair, said: “This beggars belief, particularly in a year when many people have struggled and charities are crying out for funding.
“That so little money from the lottery is going to charity is sickening, and the government must see to it that this cannot happen again.”
The other concern is that the online games offered by Camelot blur the line between gaming and betting, and could act as a ‘gateway’ to problem gambling further down the line – particularly in the vulnerable 18-24 age range.
The UK Gambling Commission, meanwhile, has declared that they are ‘satisfied’ that Camelot’s instant win games are of a comparatively low risk compared to other forms of gambling.
Timing is Everything
The controversy engulfing Camelot could not come at a worse time for the operator, with the Gambling Commission revealing the identities of the four applicants for the next National Lottery licence.
Officially launched in August 2020, the competition for the licence – which will be the fourth issued since the UK lottery began 27 years ago – has been strong throughout, with a number of domestic and overseas brands looking to replace Camelot.
The Commission has not confirmed the identities of the final four, although a number of groups are known to have made a formal application. Sisal – the Italian lottery firm who this week appointed Karren Brady to their board – are thought to be one of the contenders, alongside European gaming outfit Sazka and India’s lottery operator Sugal & Damani. It is not yet known if Camelot have re-pplied.
The executive director of 4NLC – the cool, hip acronym for the Fourth National Lottery Competition – John Tanner, said: “The Commission will now evaluate these applications in a clear and robust process. Our job is to run the best competition we possibly can – one that is open and fair and results in the best outcome for players and good causes.
“We look forward to appointing a licensee that will build on the National Lottery’s legacy and maximise the opportunities for innovation and creativity whilst protecting the special status of the National Lottery.”
With the four ‘finalists’ confirmed, the process will now move on to the evaluation stage – each of the applicants will now have to prepare a presentation to the regulator that shows why they are the ideal candidate to lead the lottery into a new era.
The winner will be revealed in early 2022, although a prior extension to Camelot’s licence agreement means that they will remain in charge until February 2024.