Deregulation of society lotteries could create a "free-for-all" that might not increase the amount given to good causes, according to Andy Duncan, chief executive of Camelot, the operator of the National Lottery.
Duncan was giving evidence in parliament yesterday to the inquiry into society lotteries by the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
In the first half of the current year, the National Lottery distributed £867.7m to good causes. Duncan acknowledged that sales and distributions to good causes were on an overall upward trend, but said that the rise of society lotteries such as the Health Lottery and the People's Postcode Lottery meant the National Lottery had not brought in as much money – or distributed as much to good causes – as would otherwise have happened.
And he said that the creation of other new society lotteries created by the gambling firm Coral and the retailer Morrisons showed that society lotteries were "becoming a very attractive space" in which the National Lottery might struggle to compete. He said: "I wouldn't say there is currently a problem, I'd say there is a problem brewing."
Deregulation would not necessarily mean more money going to good causes, he said: "If you end up with a bit of a free-for-all, you might see income go up a bit, but I doubt you'd see good causes go up in real terms. The issue here is what system is going to maximise the returns to good causes. I don't think it's a coincidence that most countries in the world have a single national lottery system."
Camelot’s written evidence, submitted to the committee last month, says: "Any deregulatory measures that have the potential to undermine the settled principle of one national lottery alongside many small-scale society lotteries must be avoided."
Duncan also said he was concerned that a proliferation of new or larger society lotteries and other games in which people gamble on the result of society lotteries, but without any of their money going to good causes, might confuse consumers. However, he said Camelot supported the traditional, smaller society lotteries, saying: "We love small society lotteries."
Also giving evidence, Dawn Austwick and Carole Souter, chief executives of lottery good-cause money distributors the Big Lottery Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund respectively, said they hoped any change to regulation would be mindful of the importance of national lottery funding.
Austwick said she wanted "assurances that there would be protection of that flow of funds". Souter said: "If there is to be a change, it needs to be analysed and worked through and modelled properly."
Evidence was then given by Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, and Helen Grant, the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Equalities. Wilson said it was important to be careful with any deregulation. "I think it would be a very unpopular move if there were a level of competition that would diminish the amount of money going to good causes," he said.
Grant, whose department last week launched a consultation on society lotteries two years after it was first announced, admitted it was not that likely that any legislation on the matter could be made before the next election. However, she defended the delay, saying: "My attitude in life is always doing things right rather than rushing them."