Society lotteries are reportedly a hugely unrecognised section of the Great Britain gambling market, according to the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), with over 50,000 currently active.

Ian Angus, the regulator’s Director of Policy, addressed UK lottery sector representatives at the Lotteries Council this week, discussing a range of issues impacting the sector including Gambling Act review White Paper.

However, before getting into legislative developments, Angus offered some snapshots into the makeup of the lottery space. According to the UKGC’s last estimate, albeit some time ago in 2016, there are around 50,000 active society lotteries.

These operators are not registered by the Commission but instead locally, and encompass ‘a huge range of society lotteries, ranging from tiny, local lotteries supporting a Parent Teacher Association or local church, to lotteries with proceeds into the tens of millions of pounds’.

“Indeed, there is one scheme that combined, leads to them being in the top 10 gambling operators in the entire GB market,” he said, whilst also noting that society and charity lotteries play an incredibly important role in our communities’.

He elaborated: “During the past few years, we’ve been through a pandemic and now a stubborn hit on the cost of living that has affected people the length and breadth of Great Britain.”

Like the rest of the UK betting and gaming sector, the lottery space will be impacted by the Gambling Act review White Paper, the recommendations of which the government hopes to implement into law next year.

Although lotteries are affected much less than online betting and land-based casino gaming, the sector still got a mention in the legislative review. The most notable recommendation for the lottery sector, which has been welcomed by stakeholders such as Health Lottery CEO Lebby Eyres, addresses prize competitions and free draws.

“Their advertisements are seen on our TV screens, heard on our radios and pop up when scrolling through social media,” Angus continued.

“There are very few safeguards to prevent minors from playing. They offer incentives such as multi-buy and encourage people to join quickly and purchase a large amount of tickets.”

As it stands, there is ‘nothing the Gambling Commission can do’ about ‘genuine’ prize competitions or free draws, Angus explained, due to the regulator having no remit over these operations.

However, should these prizes ‘cross the boundary’ to in effect become illegal lotteries, the Commission does have the power to act against this. On the other hand, expansion of the Commission’s powers and abilities is also a recommendation of the review.

But when will these changes come into effect? The UKGC and DCMS are currently engaged in a range of consultations with stakeholders, the first round of which is set to end on 18 October, with a second tranche due over the winter.

The UKGC is currently engaged in consultations on four core areas – financial vulnerability checks and financial risk assessment, removing features which increase intensity of play on non-slots casino games online, age verification in venues, and improving consumer choice on direct marketing and cross-selling.

Following this, the next tranche of consultations will focus on socially responsible initiatives, such as ensuring bonuses and free bets to not exacerbate harm; gambling management tools, notably whether to make online deposit limits mandatory or opt-out rather than opt-in; and regulatory returns, such as removing a ‘number of items that are out of date or not useful’.

Angus informed the Lotteries Council that ‘substantive changes’ are due to come into effect next year. However, changes to the Licence Condition and Codes of Practice (LCCP) will require further consultations ‘over the next couple of years’, and it is unclear whether the prospect of a general election – which can take place no later than January 2025 – will have on developments.