Judges have backed the Health Lottery and Ministers do not seem keen to change the law, says Stephen Cook
The High Court has ruled that the Health Lottery is lawful under existing legislation and dismissed objections raised by Camelot, the operator of the National Lottery. This opens the way for it to go full steam ahead, although a review of one aspect of its licences by the Gambling Commission is still going on, as we describe on in our analysis.
The judges make it clear that they could not fault the actions of the commission in granting licences to the 51 society lotteries that operate under the Health Lottery banner. They also quote from commission letters to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that call the Health Lottery "the gambling equivalent of a tax-avoidance scheme that exploits loopholes in the legislation", and concur with the commission's view that closing the loopholes is a matter for parliament.
It has been argued by some in the sector that ministers should raise the minimum proportion that society lotteries must give away from 20p in the pound - the amount the Health Lottery gives - to 28p, which is what the National Lottery gives. Others are against this because smaller lotteries might not be able to afford it.
Another possibility would be to outlaw the structure invented by the Health Lottery. The commission, quoted by the judges, warned the DCMS that the Health Lottery "umbrella scheme" had introduced a bias in favour of large organisations with major marketing resources. This might make traditional society lotteries uncompetitive, it said, and even encourage others to "enter the market with created societies designed to 'farm' this sector for the turn on profits they are allowed to take".
But the relevant minister, John Penrose, took a different view when he told a select committee of MPs earlier this year that the "innovative" structure of the Health Lottery might prompt imitations that would bring yet more income for good causes. Pending further developments, it looks as if the world will have to learn to live with the Health Lottery which is, after all, bringing in extra funds for charity.