Camelot CEO Nigel Railton has been criticised for stating that it could take up to a year for the UK National Lottery operator to impose a nationwide under-18s ban on playing National Lottery products.
Speaking as part of a recent All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) session, Railton disclosed that there are a series of ‘logistical challenges’ to enforcing such a measure, and that the operator ‘can’t just do things overnight’.
The Camelot CEO said: “Nothing we can do is overnight. We just can’t do things overnight. It’s not a small task, it’s going to cost about £6 million to do it.
“And it’s not the money, it’s just we’re in the middle of this COVID crisis. We’ve got a lot of priorities, this is one of them, and the sooner we get clarity, the sooner we’ll get on with it.”
As previously supported by cross party MPs, the Government has been urged to bring legislation forward into early next year which will raise the age limit for all lottery draws, scratchcards and interactive instant win games to 18 – a measure which has been deemed a critical condition of the government’s review of UK gambling.
The change, which will likely happen in 2023, could be implemented when the lottery licence comes up for renewal.
Railton told MPs during the session that it would take up to 12 months to implement the 18 or over policy as changing the signs in shops and newsagents would be a time-consuming process, but did emphasise that the National Lottery operator was considering new ways to speed up the process.
These claims were dismissed by MPs, however, with members branding Railton’s concerns as ‘wholly unacceptable’ and ‘farcical’.
Conservative MP Richard Holden told the Telegraph: “It’s farcical to suggest that it would take 12 months to replace a few sticky signs in shops. It’s just another way for Camelot to drag their feet over children gambling.”
Carolyn Harris MP, Chair of the Gambling Related Harm on the APPG, said: “The lottery and the products it provides should not be available to under-18s. This needs to be stopped immediately and it is wholly unacceptable for Camelot to say this process would take up to a full 12 months to implement.
“I am pleased that the government is finally bringing legislation forward on this but they must do so next year and must not delay any longer.”
In July, the House of Lords Gambling Select Committee’s report entitled ‘Gambling Harm – Time for Action‘ called for ‘urgent action’ to address harms caused by gambling, which included raising the minimum age for lotteries to 18.
Criticism of Camelot has been far reaching, with England Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield OBE demanding an immediate discipline of Camelot for abusing its position of power as the National Lottery operator.
Longfield criticised DCMS‘ inaction on Camelot, following an investigation by the Sunday Times which disclosed that children aged 16-to-17 had spent a reported £47 million on the National Lottery’s online hub playing scratch card games.
The Children’s Commissioner stated her disbelief that the government had failed to close a loophole allowing teenagers to gamble £350 a week without Camelot providing any form of intervention.
Camelot added that although it refuses to accept there was any evidence of a ‘significant risk of harm’ of under-18s playing the lottery, it would ‘fully support any decision made by the government to raise the age.’
A spokesman said: “The National Lottery is a vast and complex operation, with a network of 44,000 retailers across the UK. While any changeover will not happen overnight, we will do everything in our power to bring it in as quickly as possible, while ensuring that we maintain the very high operational standards demanded of the National Lottery.
“However, it’s not simply a case of sending new stickers to retailers – under our licence to operate the National Lottery, the current 16+ sign must appear on all physical materials, as well as in all online channels.”
This is not the first time that ministers have called for the minimum age for the national lottery to be raised, with former DCMS minister Tracey Crouch campaigning for a new age limit two years ago.