The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee interrogated the National Lottery yesterday morning amidst criticism that the current operators, Camelot UK, have increased profit at a faster rate than it has boosted funding for good causes.
The committee cited the Public Accounts data, which showed that returns for good causes from the lottery had not been hiked at the same rate: with its returns to good causes at only two per cent in 2016-2017, despite its profits being 122 per cent higher.
However, a spokesperson for Camelot told City A.M. that the figures are “outdated”, giving “an inaccurate picture of the current health of The National Lottery”.
They said: “We retain around one per cent in profit after tax. Last year, we achieved record National Lottery sales of over £8.3bn and over £7.9bn of that went back to winners and society, compared with £78.1 million retained in profit.” Good causes include sports and arts funding.
Sponsorship by the National Lottery notably makes up 60 per cent of paralympic funding, and Lauren Rowles MBE, Paralympic rower, told the committee that there is a “culture of fear” for professional athletes, alongside dwindling lottery funds.
For example, at the recent Tokyo Olympics, Rowles revealed that they were actively encouraged to thank the National Lottery, with reminders even popping up on press calls for athletes.
A key backdrop to the inquiry is the upcoming decision by the gambling regulator on whether Camelot will retain the lottery licence for a fourth time for the government contract.
Bidders submitted their final presentations to the Gambling Commission earlier this month, and a final decision is due in February.
Rival tenders to Camelot include the Italian lottery operator Sisal, and Czech gambling company Sazka: Europe’s fastest growing lottery company.
However, rivals are forbidden from speaking publicly which Matt Zarb-Cousin, director of a UK non-profit Clean Up Gambling has criticised.
He asserted the decisions “should not be taken in smoke-filled rooms”, especially with the nature of funding. He stated we need an open, transparent and public conversation about what other bidders could offer.