Fresh look at lottery laws

The world’s governments are becoming increasingly addicted to their own state-run lotteries. As a form of taxation, lotteries are unbeatable. People play to win, and do not begrudge the 12 per cent or so they pay in tax. The British seem to be bored of complaining about giving money to inappropriate good causes. Maybe the awarding authorities have learned to be more circumspect in their choices. Many governments make no pretence that the funds are spent on anything other than state projects. In the UK the concept of ‘additionality’ – that money for good causes would not otherwise have been spent by the Government, making it ‘additional’ spending – has taken a hammering from New Labour’s insistence on tying lottery expenditure into its wider social aims. But now this politically expedient form of fundraising appears to be under threat, according to Camelot chief executive Tim Holley. Speaking at this week’s World Lottery Association (WLA) conference in Oslo, Holley will issue a stark warning to governments that the golden goose is in danger of being under-cooked. He says: ‘It is clear there are new challenges facing the lottery industry from competitors, regulation, consumer trends and technology. We as an organisation (WLA) and as individual members must be prepared to take a proactive approach by fighting the threat of unrestricted gaming and making governments aware of the threat to their income stream.’ Holley will reiterate his familiar call for the UK’s gaming legislation to be re-evaluated, and for a single regulatory body to be set up to oversee the &£40bn industry. As it stands, the Gaming Board, the Lottery Commission, the Home Office and the Department for Culture, Media & Sport all have a hand in regulating gaming. For the likes of Holley, this makes it all the more difficult to develop a coherent strategy to deal with technological developments in gaming. Remember the launch of the Pronto rapidly repeating lottery last year? It was legal, yet the Government vowed to outlaw it at the first possible opportunity as it claimed it could lead to lottery addiction. In the event, the game collapsed before legislation could be passed. As bookmakers move their operations offshore to Gibraltar to avoid UK taxes, and the world Internet gaming market heads towards the $3bn mark, Holley’s remarks are timely. One Camelot insider says the world lottery market has declined by two per cent over the past year as rival Internet gaming eats into sales. So what to do? Lottery games played across national borders sound exciting, with potentially huge jackpots attracting more players. This is just one option open to the world’s lottery operators. In the UK, though, the time is nearing when a new look at gaming regulation seems inevitable. When the Government sees the taxation take from lotteries dwindling, it will no doubt quickly institute such a review. News story, page 7

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