MPs call for reform to society lottery rules

A Westminster Hall debate yesterday heard repeated calls for bigger draws and prizes to be allowed

The Health Lottery
The Health Lottery

MPs have called for society lotteries to be allowed to run much bigger draws and offer prizes of up to £1m.

Henry Bellingham, the Conservative MP for North West Norfolk, told a Westminster Hall debate yesterday that society lotteries were not in competition with the National Lottery and should be encouraged to raise more money for good causes.

Bellingham said the increase in the permissible amount of ticket sales for a single draw should be raised from £4m to at least £10m, the annual turnover limit should increase from £10m to £100m and the maximum prize should go up from £400,000 to £1m.

The comments are in line with changes that have been repeatedly called for by the Lotteries Council, which represents UK lottery providers.

Bellingham told MPs: "There is overwhelming support for these changes from every single third sector charity that has been in contact with me."

He quoted from a letter he had received from the development charity ActionAid, saying: "Such changes would mean more funds can be raised for important causes like ours and the many other UK charities benefiting from this funding source."

He said Camelot, which operates the National Lottery, had become complacent and lost its way. "Many of my constituents were incensed by the decision to double the price of tickets and add 10 extra numbers to the card," he said.

Bellingham called on the government to urgently introduce a statutory instrument to deregulate society lotteries.

Tracey Crouch, the Minister for Civil Society, said the government was in discussions with the Gambling Commission, which regulates society lotteries.

"Before making any changes to the current rules, it is important that all options are looked at and consideration is given to the wider picture," she said.

"The key consideration in the reforms has been how to strike the right balance between society lotteries and the National Lottery."

She said she did not think there had been any competition between society lotteries and the national lottery, but "reforms must be considered through that lens" and she hoped to provide an update in the new year.

Ben Lake, the Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion, said existing turnover and draw limits increased administration costs. "For some charity lotteries, the limits are having the unintended effect of reducing the amount that they can provide to good causes to begin with," said Lake.

Stephen Lloyd, the Liberal Democrat MP for Eastbourne, said raising the limits could be particularly beneficial to hospice charities.

MPs have been discussing reform to society lotteries since 2012 and Amanda Milling, the Conservative MP for Cannock Chase, urged Crouch to "come forward with plans to reform the law" and give a timetable for implementation.

Rosena Allin-Khan, the shadow minister for sport, told the debate: "Lotteries have been left in limbo for years and the government needs to provide greater clarity about its intentions."

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