£600m of National Lottery good cause funds could be drained if Camelot were to successfully litigate for damages after the UK Gambling Commission awarded Allwyn the Fourth National Lottery licence, according to Chris Philp.
The Technology Minister addressed parliamentary colleagues at the DCMS select committee yesterday and voiced his ‘disappointment’ that Camelot is choosing to litigate against the Commission for the way it handled the Fourth National Lottery licence competition, given it has held the licence for 28 years.
Julian Knight MP, the chair of the select committee, asked Philp – charged with Ministerial duties for UK gambling – for his thoughts on the prospect of £600m being drained from the National Lottery, and where that money could potentially come from.
Philp conceded it could be deducted from good causes: “We hope very fervently that that eventuality will not arise. We’re obviously disappointed, very disappointed, that Camelot are choosing to pursue this litigation. They’ve had the licence for 28 years now, which is an extremely long period of time, nearly three decades, so to litigate is disappointing.
“There are clearly a number of ways damages could be funded if they’re awarded. One is it could come out of good causes, another, of course, is that it could be funded by the Treasury. But given that no damages award has been made and I fervently hope none is, that isn’t a question that we’ve directly discussed with the treasury.”
Camelot is seeking damages from the UKGC after its CEO, Nigel Railton, labelled the commission’s decision to award the lottery licence to Allwyn as ‘badly wrong’.
Railton added that the decision deserves ‘independent scrutiny’ with the potential impact that the change of licence could have on its 1,000+ members of staff.
Furthermore, Camelot wrote to the DCMS committee to refute the claims that the damages would come from the National Lottery Distribution Fund, arguing that, as it would be from public funds, the Secretary of State for DCMS and the Treasury would decide.
Philp noted that any money from public funds would be the responsibility of the Treasury, given it is ‘ultimately the custodian of public funds.
The minister added: “I’m very disappointed that Camelot are pursuing this litigation which I don’t think is very good for anyone, I’m very disappointed indeed, and I hope it doesn’t come to that.
The subject of the Fourth National Lottery Licence Competition has come firmly back into the public sphere in the last week with the key decision coming from High Court overturning the suspension of the transfer of the licence from Camelot to Allwyn.
Whilst UKGC praised the court’s decision, Camelot brushed off its significance, noting that “the judgement on whether the Gambling Commission correctly and lawfully awarded Preferred Applicant status is being dealt with separately.”
Both parties believe they have a strong case to win the battle, with the UKGC maintaining that it ran a ‘fair and robust’ process. Camelot too stressed it has a ‘very strong legal case’.
Concluding his session of giving evidence, Philp refused to be drawn into the specifics of the litigation, instead reiterating his disappointment that it has played out in this manner.
He remarked: “I don’t want to comment on this court case but I would just repeat what I’ve said. I’m very disappointed that this litigation is being pursued, I don’t think it serves, frankly, anyone’s interests.
“I’ve been given every assurance by the Gambling Commission that this process was run properly and it was run fairly, they were supported by very credible professional advisors from the legal and the financial services sector as they ran the process, I don’t think that this litigation serves anyone’s interests and I am extremely disappointed that it’s happening.”