Camelot receives political backlash over digital shift

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MPs from both sides of the benches have criticised National Lottery operator Camelot for moving towards app-based games rather than traditional paper-slip draws.

According to The Guardian, the parliamentarians have underlined that app-based games such as instant win titles pose a higher risk of problem gambling to customers, whilst simultaneously lessening the amount of funding given to good causes.

In response to criticisms, Camelot has defended its record on problem gambling, emphasising that an increase in online sales via apps is part of a general trend among consumers towards the digitalisation of betting as opposed to traditional retail verticals – especially amid the restrictions and social distancing of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Camelot spokesperson stated: “By giving people a choice of safe and enjoyable games that they want to play, by making those games attractive and generous to players, and by enabling people to play in ways that suit them best, we’re generating record monetary returns to good causes from ticket sales, record prize money to players and record payments in lottery duty to the Treasury – all in a responsible way.”

The group further asserted that good cause funding has continued to increase, whilst also noting that traditional draws are also included in overall online sales figures.

MPs, however, have argued that the proportion of National Lottery sales towards good causes had fallen from 28% in 2012/13 to 21% in 2020/21. The group also maintains that 9% of revenue from instant win games, consisting of online games and scratchcards, go towards community causes as opposed to 31% of draw-based game sales. 

In its trading update for the financial year of April 2020 to March 2021, Camelot reported that instant sales had increased to £3,683.2 million, with instant games sales offsetting a decline in scratchcard revenue.

One of the critical MPs was Andrew Stafford, the Conservative Party parliamentarian for Rother Valley, who said that it was ‘time to get someone in who can run the national lottery properly and who can be more true to its founding values’.

“People trust the National Lottery as a brand and want to get behind its charitable mission statement,” Stafford continued. “But these controversial instant win games are herding people towards a more dangerous form of gambling, putting vulnerable people at risk.”

However, the firm continues to receive the support of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), which stated that it was satisfied that Camelot’s app-based games are ‘comparatively low risk’, as reported by The Guardian.

Despite this, Carolyn Harris, Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm (GRH APPG) – along with other MPs – has called for ministerial action to push Camelot to change its operations.

The Labour MP commented: “This beggars belief, particularly in a year when many people have struggled and charities are crying out for funding. That so little money from the lottery is going to charity is sickening and the government must see to it that this cannot happen again.”

Criticism of Camelot comes as the UKGC moves forward with the Fourth National Lottery Licence competition, with the winner of the 10-year multi-billion contract set to be announced in February 2022. Camelot is currently facing off competition in the form of the SAZKA Group’s UK facing subsidiary Allwyn, Northern & Shell Group and Sisal.