MPs urge intervention over UK National Lottery legal wrangle amid £1bn good causes fears

MPs urge action over fears UK National Lottery court case could divert £1bn from good causes
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Numerous MPs have signed a letter urging government ministers to intervene in the fourth UK National Lottery licence High Court case and prevent £1bn being diverted away from good causes. 

As reported by the Daily Mail, MPs have demanded ministerial action into the legal battle between Camelot and the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) over the latter’s decision to award the fourth UK National Lottery licence to Allwyn in March.

This sparked a legal challenge from Camelot who declared the decision “badly wrong” in their attempts to overturn it, and it emerged last month that £600m of UK National Lottery good cause funds could be drained if Camelot proves successful in its pursuit of damages.

The UKGC wants to go ahead and award the licence to Allwyn before the court rules, arguing to do otherwise ‘poses a significant risk’ of reducing cash going to good causes.

However, Dame Dianne Thompson, former CEO of Camelot, warned earlier this year that going ahead and then losing the case to Camelot could lead to massive compensation.

“No one – least of all the Gambling Commission – would wish to risk taking up to £1bn from good causes, particularly during a cost of living crisis,” said Thompson.

The letter from MPs to Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries, revealed in the Daily Mail last week, expressed fears that the money will end up in the pockets of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, which acquired Camelot in 2010.

Since 2017, the Canadian firm has made £300m.

“Regardless of the strength or weakness of either side’s case, we are clear that attempting to squeeze up to £1bn out of the public purse at this time is totally unacceptable,” the MPs letter read.

“This would represent an unacceptable cost to the British taxpayer and is made worse by the fact that it could be the National Lottery Community Fund which ends up being directly raided.

“It is out of this pot that the National Lottery meets its financial commitments, and we are concerned that any resultant deficit will fall hardest on the shoulders of our constituents.

“We therefore urge the Culture Secretary to clarify, should legal proceedings determine that the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan be awarded a financial sum in compensation, that this is not met by diverting funds away from national Lottery good causes, or indeed by any public money.”

The letter was signed by 17 MPs including Craig Tracey, Sally-Ann Hart and Ben Bradley.

A Camelot spokesperson said: “Paying damages, if it turns out Camelot should have won, is the result of legal action taken by the Gambling Commission. We have written letters, been to court and are now in the Court of Appeal arguing to stop them.

“This massive bill is entirely avoidable by simply waiting until after the court ruling before issuing the contract to run The National Lottery. 

“Good causes and the taxpayer should never have been put on the hook for hundreds of millions of pounds. Thankfully, there is still time for the regulator to change course, and we urge them to do so.”