A group of cross-party UK MPs has criticised the operator of the National Lottery, Camelot, for moving towards a portfolio of app-based games which they argue could trigger a wave of problem gambling.
As reported by The Guardian, Conservative and Labour MPs have lamented the operator’s most recent results that showed that two-thirds of sales growth in 2020 and 2021 came through online instant games. Though this was primarily due to COVID-19 restrictions closing retailers, mobile sales rose from £1.6bn in 2020 to £2.5bn in 2021.
Concerns have been raised that allowing users to play mobile instants could act as a gateway into problem gambling, given the proliferation of mobile gaming available.
Alex Stafford, Conservative MP for Rother Valley, told The Guardian: “People trust the national lottery as a brand and want to get behind its charitable mission statement. But these controversial instant win games are herding people towards a more dangerous form of gambling, putting vulnerable people at risk.”
Meanwhile, it was revealed that 9% of the earnings from the app-based games were going towards good causes in the UK, compared to 31% of traditional draw earnings. This, twinned with concerns over gambling harms, angered a group of MPs.
Carolyn Harris, Labour MP and chair of an all-party Parliamentary group on gambling harms added: “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 criticism comes at a time when Camelot’s position as operator of the National Lottery is weaker than ever.
The UK Gambling Commission confirmed that it had received four applications for the Fourth National Lottery licence tender, with the winner set to be announced ‘early next year.’
UKGC confirmed that the new license would be valid from early 2024 following a two-year handover period.
Battling Camelot for the license is believed to be the Czech Republic’s Sazka Group under the UK identity Allwyn, Italy’s Sisal SpA and India’s Sugal & Damani.
Responding to the criticism, a Camelot spokesperson said that app-based games have existed for six years and, whilst sales are increasing significantly, it is mainly attributable to COVID-19 restrictions closing many retailers, turning users towards app-based games.
The told the Guardian: “By giving people a choice of safe and enjoyable games that they want to play, by making those games attractive and generous to players, and by enabling people to play in ways that suit them best, we’re generating record monetary returns to good causes from ticket sales, record prize money to players and record payments in lottery duty to the Treasury – all in a responsible way.”