Plans to abolish the National Lottery Commission bring criticism

The regulator would be subsumed by the Gambling Commission, but some lottery operators believe there is a potential conflict of interest

National Lottery: Camelot repeats fears about Health Lottery
National Lottery: Camelot repeats fears about Health Lottery

Lottery operators have raised concerns about a proposal to merge the National Lottery Commission into the Gambling Commission.

Various organisations have responded to an inquiry by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee into government plans to abolish the National Lottery Commission. The commission is responsible for licensing and regulating the National Lottery and maximising the amount of money it raises for good causes. The Gambling Commission regulates commercial gambling.

In written evidence to the committee, published yesterday, the People’s Postcode Lottery, which manages society lotteries on behalf of four grant-making trusts, broadly welcomes the plan, but says the commissions have had "diametrically opposed views" in the past.

According to the PPL, the commissions held opposing views on the growth and development of the charity lottery sector. It says that in 2008, when the government consulted on plans to increase the limits on proceeds from any single society lottery draw from £2m to £4m, the National Lottery Commission and Camelot, the National Lottery operator, opposed the increase, but the Gambling Commission, the Lotteries Council and the Hospice Lotteries Association supported it.

The PPL says that the charity lottery sector was successful in that instance, but questions remain about how any future review of monetary limits will be viewed.

"We strongly hold the view that if charity lotteries and the National Lottery were governed by the same legislation and regulator, the government could achieve even greater optimisation and savings," the PPL says. "Such a move would remove restrictions on the amount of money that charity lotteries can raise, with the potential to generate hundreds of millions in additional income each year for good causes."

The Health Lottery, an umbrella scheme of 51 society lotteries, says in its submission that it is concerned about a potential conflict of interest in merging one regulator responsible for supporting one National Lottery at the "expense of any competition" with another that has a remit to "support a more competitive environment". This could "negatively impact on our ability to raise funds for the society lottery sector", it says.

The Health Lottery’s main concern is that the responsibility of the National Lottery Commission is to maximise the amount the National Lottery raises for good causes. "We cannot see how a single regulator can fairly regulate all lotteries if its core function is to prioritise one operator," it says.

Camelot says in its submission that it recognises the logic of the merger and the need to make savings. It repeats its concerns about the licensing and regulation of larger, multiple society lotteries operating under a single or connected brand, such as the Health Lottery, which Camelot sees as a "significant threat" to the National Lottery.

"We will continue to urge the Gambling Commission, especially under the merged arrangements, to exercise its powers to ensure that the Health Lottery is appropriately regulated and, as always intended by parliament, the National Lottery’s unique role is fully upheld and protected by the enforcement of the statutory limits on society lotteries," it says.

In a joint submission to the committee, the Gambling Commission and the National Lottery Commission say they have been working together to identify any potential conflicts of interest or governance issues. Transparency and proper governance protocols would address any perceived issues, the statement says.  

The committee is expected to report its findings to parliament in June.

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