Big Lottery Fund board feared 'sustained drop in income' after Lotto ticket price doubled

Minutes of a BLF board meeting show members were concerned about financial and reputational issues after the National Lottery ticket price rose from £1 to £2

Big Lottery Fund
Big Lottery Fund

Big Lottery Fund board members warned of a possible "sustained drop in income" after the National Lottery operator Camelot doubled the price of Lotto tickets.

Newly published minutes of the BLF’s January board meeting, which took place three months after Camelot increased the price of tickets for its Lotto game from £1 to £2, say: "There were concerns that the price rise had not increased revenue as hoped and it would be prudent to consider planning for a sustained drop in lotto income."

The BLF board minutes also say that board members expressed "disappointment at Camelot's conduct of late", including its temporary diversion of £75m of good-cause funds to boost the prize money pot.

The minutes say that this diversion of funds, which was approved by the lottery regulator, was "particularly concerning" and the BLF, which is the largest distributor of National Lottery good-cause money, would talk to other lottery distributors about a shared strategy.

"Members also expressed concern about potential reputational issues which could arise should this emerge in the press, as some members of the public might confuse Camelot with the Big Lottery Fund," the minutes say.

The BLF could put practical suggestions to Camelot about increasing awareness of the distinction between the Big Lottery Fund and Camelot, they say.

Data published in February showed that National Lottery money for good causes increased in the period immediately after the price rise.

A spokeswoman for the BLF said today it was aware of these figures. "We prudently plan based on projections from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport on lottery income for all eventualities," she said. "Based on current projections, we have not had to review."

In the final three months of 2013 – the first quarter of the £2 era – National Lottery paid out £417.2m to good causes, up from £378m in the three months before the change. But this was lower than the £538m raised in the final three months of 2012. Camelot said this drop occurred because sales had reached record levels in the previous year, with the charity pot boosted by an unclaimed £64m prize.

A spokeswoman for Camelot said that the rise in good-cause money during the last two quarters of 2013 reversed a longer-term decline in revenues, and the revised game would "continue to raise substantially more money across the course of the current licence period than if we had left Lotto unchanged".

She said: "Prior to launching a new version of Lotto in 2013, the game’s revenues had been steadily declining over many years, so money returned to National Lottery good causes from the game had also been falling."

The spokeswoman also said that the diversion of funds to prize money was part of the broader campaign to ensure a successful launch, and that this was "approved by our regulator following full regulatory scrutiny and discussed fully with all relevant stakeholders".

She added: "In making new Lotto’s launch an ‘unmissable’ moment, the promotional activity continues to help deliver a significant increase in sales and, ultimately, National Lottery good-cause projects will receive substantially more cash in total over the course of this current licence period as a result."

The BLF distributes 40 per cent of National Lottery good-cause money, totalling about £600m a year.

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