Fate of NHS Loto hangs in balance

The decision to withdraw registration from NHS Loto puts the organisation’s future in jeopardy

The future of the NHS Loto has been thrown into doubt by the decision of a London local authority to withdraw its lottery registration. The de-registration follows a High Court judge’s dismissal of the NHS Loto’s claim to be a collection of 100 local lotteries as a “paperwork facade”.

The charity lottery has been forced to suspend its weekly paid-for competition while it restructures its network of 100 “branches” to bring it within the scope of the law.

The news could dent the hopes of NHS Loto operator Pascal & Company for a major UK relaunch with a 20m marketing budget. Pascal is seeking funding from a Malaysian company, Sin Heng Chan, which is executing a rights issue to fund its break into the UK lottery market.

National Hospital Trust, the charity for which NHS Loto raises funds, says it is planning to reinstate the paid-for draw “within weeks”. It is restructuring its operations, and may use up to ten branches registered in other local areas.

NHS Loto had been registered by the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea since 1988. But the local authority suspended its registration in March on the grounds that it was a single national lottery, rather than a collection of 100 separate lotteries as claimed by Pascal & Company. The council also argued that NHS Loto should fall under the control of the Government-funded Gaming Board which has greater powers of financial scrutiny than a local authority.

An appeal by Pascal & Company led to a High Court hearing last month. But it was rejected and the registration formally lapsed on August 1. A paid-for lottery is deemed to be operating illegally if it is not registered by either a local authority or the Gaming Board.

News analysis page 20

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