Britain’s lottery operator should be banned from using the national lottery brand and logo to promote online instant-win games that may lead to problem gambling, according to the chair of a group of MPs examining gambling harms.
Carolyn Harris, the Labour MP and chair of the all party parliamentary group for gambling-related harm, said the online games now offered by the lottery operator, Camelot, were similar to harmful betting products promoted by the gambling industry. They also give a smaller proportion of revenues to good causes compared with the draw-based games.
She said: “The national lottery is now unrecognisable from when it was launched. It is not acceptable that they are using what people trust as a brand for good causes to encourage people to gamble. It’s appalling.”
Harris said she would like to see a ban on the national lottery trademarks being linked with online instant-win games such as Cash Tripler and Jewel Smash, which can offer wins of up to £1m. Campaigners calling for more curbs on the industry say these games are more likely to be associated with problem gambling.
The national lottery brand is well known around the country and the trademarks are owned by the regulator, the Gambling Commission. The brand, which includes the crossed-fingers logo, is licensed to Camelot.
MPs have called for a review of the lottery, and a debate on its future, as rival companies bid for a new licence. The former boss of Sainsbury’s, Justin King, is advising Czech group Allwyn, one of the bidders. He has said the lottery needs to be revitalised and that there has been a decline in the number of players since it was launched.
He said last year: “We need more players playing more often, and through greater sales we will be able to deliver more for the great causes.”
Camelot said 37 million adults played the lottery last year and any suggestion that it was raising more money from a smaller number of players was “completely wrong”. The firm said it was internationally recognised for encouraging many people to play but only to spend small amounts. It says its products are very different from those offered by the mainstream gambling sector and the risks associated with them are very low.
The MPs are concerned that lottery operations are “shrouded in secrecy” and want more public information on the number of participants for each year and the amounts lost each year by the highest-spending players.
Lord Foster of Bath, who is a member of the group and chair of Peers for Gambling Reform, said ministers needed to examine whether any new restrictions for betting firms should also apply to the lottery instant-win games. Ministers are due to publish a white paper shortly which will set out their vision on gambling regulation. Foster said: “One of the big drivers towards problem gambling is repetitive play because you can chase your losses instantly, whether it’s on a fruit machine or online instant wins.”
The other bidders for the lottery licence are the Italian operator Sisal, which is being taken over by the gambling giant Flutter, and media tycoon Richard Desmond, who owns the Health Lottery. The bid is being conducted in strict secrecy and a decision is expected in the next two months.