A delay in the handover of the UK National Lottery licence could prove disastrous to those in need, according to Labour MP Kevin Brennan.
The next hearing in the lottery operator saga is expected to take place on September 13 and 14, as current incumbent Camelot continues to appeal against the UK Gambling Commission’s decision to award the fourth UK National Lottery licence to Allwyn.
It was reported earlier this year that a legal dispute between Camelot and the UKGC could leave a £1bn-sized hole in funds set aside for good causes, and in a legal submission obtained by The Observer, the UKGC has stated that UK National Lottery operations could be put on hold for a period in 2024.
“In the worst scenario, there will be a gap in service between the expiry of the third licence on January 31, 2024, and the commencement of the fourth licence.
“The commission anticipates there will be an overall shortfall of payment to good causes of at least £1bn and, in the case of an interregnum, considerably more.”
Talk of a delay in the handover has been brewing for some time, and such has been the concern over the potential pitfalls of this, a number of MPs signed a letter last month which urged government ministers to intervene and prevent this money being diverted away from good causes.
The letter was signed by 17 MPs including Craig Tracey, Sally-Ann Hart and Ben Bradley, and now Brennan, also a member of the Commons select committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has delivered his verdict on the UK National Lottery legal battle.
“Any delay in the handover of the lottery that denies money going to good causes would be a disaster, particularly at a time when people are facing increasing hardship,” said Brennan.
“It would be better for everyone if this matter was resolved quickly and the new lottery operator takes over as soon as possible.”
Allwyn is due to take over the running of the UK National Lottery from February 2024 but will not have time to prepare if Camelot succeeds in its court appeal to delay the handover.
New legislation may be required for an interim operator or the lottery may even have to be suspended.
A Camelot spokesperson said: “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.”
Camelot argues that the UKGC did not properly evaluate the risk that Allwyn may not deliver on its ambitious proposals, which include halving the price of lottery tickets and raising £38bn for good causes during its 10-year term as operator of the UK National Lottery.
An Allwyn spokesperson added: “The hearing in September represents the last opportunity to avoid even more losses to good causes, on top of the damage that has already been caused by the delay so far.
“Camelot will still have its day in court in the new year, in which we are confident it will be demonstrated that the Gambling Commission ran a thorough, proper and robust competition.”