Nigel Railton, CEO of Camelot, was criticised for claiming that it might take up to a year for the UK National Lottery operator to impose a ban on playing National Lottery items nationally for under-18s.
As part of a recent session of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG), Railton confirmed that there are a range of ‘logistical challenges’ to implementing such a measure, and that the operator ‘can’t just do things overnight.’
The CEO of Camelot 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.”
The Government has been encouraged, as previously advocated by cross-party MPs, to put legislation forward early next year that will increase the age limit for all lottery drawings, scratchcards and digital instant win games to 18, a move that has been considered a vital condition of the UK gambling review by the government.
When the lottery licence is up for renewal, the move, which will likely happen in 2023, will be enforced.
During the session, Railton advised MPs that it would take up to 12 months to introduce the 18 or over policy as it would be a time-consuming process to change the signs in shops and newsagents, but stressed that the National Lottery operator was exploring new ways to speed up the process.
However these statements were denied by MPs, with members branding the arguments of Railton as ‘wholly unacceptable’ and ‘farcical’.
Richard Holden, the conservative MP, 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 APPG’s Gambling Related Harm, 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 report entitled ‘Gambling Harm-Time for Action’ of the House of Lords Gambling Select Committee called for ‘urgent action’ to counter gambling-induced harms, which included raising the minimum age for lotteries to 18.
Camelot’s criticism has been far ranging, with Anne Longfield OBE, England Children’s Commissioner, demanding Camelot’s immediate discipline for exploiting its place of control as the operator of the National Lottery.
Following an investigation by the Sunday Times that revealed that children aged 16-to-17 spent a reported £ 47 million on the National Lottery’s online hub playing scratch card games, Longfield criticised the inaction of DCMS on Camelot.
The Children’s Commissioner expressed her disbelief that the government had failed to close a loophole allowing adolescents to gamble £ 350 a week without any sort of intervention offered by Camelot.
Camelot added that while it refuses to agree that there is any proof of a ‘significant risk of harm’ from under-18s playing the lottery, it will ‘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 ministers have advocated for increasing the minimum age for the national lottery, with former DCMS minister Tracey Crouch two years ago calling for a new age cap.