MPs Call on UKGC to Investigate Camelot Good Causes Claims
Two Members of Parliament have called on the Gambling Commission to investigate National Lottery operator Camelot. The MPs accuse Camelot of taking credit for the National Lottery’s returns to good causes initiative.
Camelot has been accused of using its position as the National Lottery operator to distort the bid process to operate the franchise. Two MPs have written to the Gambling Commission accusing the company of taking credit for the money raised for charitable causes from ticket sales. The MPs also question the company’s actions in placing an advertisement highlighting charitable contributions in a publication circulated only to MPs.
Carolyn Harris MP and Richard Holden MP have written to the UKGC expressing concern that the incumbent franchise operator displays its own corporate branding more prominently than the lottery franchise’s branding. They believe it is deliberate and will put the company in a better position when the franchise goes back out to tender at a later date.
Both Harris and Holden are both members of the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group; Harris is the Chair, and Holden is the Vice-Chair. The APPG also includes Sir Mark Hendrick MP, Sammy Wilson MP, The Rt Hon. Stephen Timms MP, Mark Menzies MP and former Conservative leader and previous leader of the opposition, Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP.
On excerpt of the letter, which was published in the Evening Standard, reads: “We have noticed there have been numerous instances when Camelot have announced initiatives that appear to conflate its role as operator with that of the National Lottery.”
“It’s unclear to us how an advertising campaign in The House Magazine….serves to promote the National Lottery in order to increase returns to good causes.”
“We fear this is creating an unfair process that threatens the credibility of the National Lottery and you as a regulator. We are fearful that if the competition continues to allow the incumbent to mislead audiences as to its role in relation to good causes, it will lead to a situation where Camelot is awarded the licence for a fourth time, and no credible bidders will be forthcoming in future competitions.”
Camelot is the only company that has won the National Lottery’s right since its launch in November 1994. Currently, 53% of a ticket sale goes towards the prize money, and 25% goes to charity and ‘good causes’. 12% is paid to the UK Government in taxes, with retailers earning 4%. Camelot receives 5p in the £, with 4p spent on operating costs and the remaining 1p is profit.
Many critics have slammed this business model, calling for a non-profit model. As the Independent news paper said of the situation, ‘no other private company enjoys a government-protected monopoly, and free prime-time television publicity every week as Camelot does.’
In 1994, Virgin owner Richard Branson bid to run the lottery on a not-for-profit basis promising more returns to good causes, his bid failed, as did a later attempt in 2000. On that occasion, only a decision by the High Court to overturn a decision to ban Camelot prevented a Branson victory.
Camelot said in response to the letter sent by Harris and Holden: “Camelot is doing all it can to maximise returns to Good Causes and promote The National Lottery brand in accordance with its licence and duties. The assertions made are wrong, and the distinction between the role of Camelot and The National Lottery was accurate and made clear in all materials. At no time has money allocated for Good Causes been used for Camelot’s benefit.
Criticising Camelot’s decision to use £1m of its own money to support a brilliant initiative by The Daily Mail to provide computers for children home-schooling, or to help fund a local bike scheme, is a surprise.
The decision to support projects like these is in keeping with Camelot’s commitment to make a positive impact and help where it can.”
The UKGC launched the fourth National Lottery licence tender in the summer of last year. The winner will take over running the franchise in 2023.