DCMS Accuses Gambling Commission of Interference
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee chair has accused the UK Gambling Commission of interfering with an inquiry into the National Lottery. The regulator is alleged to have tried to delay oversight into its role until after the lottery licence award.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee chair Julian Knight has accused the Gambling Commission of attempting to delay a parliamentary investigation into its role as the regulator for the National Lottery.
Reports in the national press claim that Gambling Commission CEO Andrew Rhodes sent a letter to Julian Knight. He warned of the potential risk to the National Lottery tendering process if it emerged that the Commission was under scrutiny in its role as the lottery regulator during a “sensitive stage”.
“It would pose significant risk to the integrity of the competition if the Gambling Commission, any of the applicants or anyone directly involved in the competition in any way, were to provide evidence to the inquiry at this sensitive stage of the competition,” Rhodes wrote, according to extracts published by the Financial Times.
“For these reasons, I believe that the public interest would be best served by contributing to your inquiry at a later stage and my colleagues and I will, of course, be very happy to give detailed evidence to the committee once the competition has concluded,” the letter adds.
Julian Knight, clearly angered by the letter, took to Twitter to criticise the approach of Rhodes. He wrote: “I and @CommonsDCMS take an extremely dim view of any unelected quango actively looking to frustrate our inquiries. I trust that there will be a rapid change of approach on behalf of the Gambling Commission. This sets a dangerous precedent for democracy.”
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport had launched an inquiry to examine the tender process that the regulator has in place that decides who will be the next holder of the licence to run the National Lottery. As part of this inquiry, staff from the DCMS will scrutinise the preferred applicant criteria and examine the Gambling Commission’s role in the selection process. The inquiry will focus on the effectiveness of the tendering process when compared to the UKGC’s initial objectives. They will also be ensuring that the transition from Camelot and the next licensee holder (if not Camelot) is a smooth one.
The DCMS will also examine the effect of good causes changes that will be made as part of the licencing conditions and take a holistic view of the wider UK lottery market.
The Gambling Commission is due to announce which of the applicants is its preferred candidate in September. Current licence holder Camelot, who has held the licence since 1994, has applied. Other operators who have completed the tender process include Sisal, Sazka Group and Northern & Shell.
Responding to the criticism, the Gambling Commission defended its position, stating: “Our priority is to run a fair and open competition, in which applicants compete on a level playing field,” a spokesperson for the UKGC said. “As part of this, all parties directly involved in the competition have committed to adhere to strict confidentiality protocols that seek to protect the integrity and fairness of the process and maintain competition.
“We recognise and respect the powers of Parliamentary select committees to summon witnesses to give evidence. It is for applicants to determine how they respond to any request to provide evidence to or appear before the Select Committee, bearing in mind the obligations they are under in the competition.
“We continue to engage with the Committee on this important matter,”