Lord Mancroft is a Conservative peer and the President of The Lotteries Council.
Long before I entered Parliament in 1987, a charity of which I was the chairman of the trustees derived much needed income by promoting what were called Society Lotteries.
These have been an important source of income for many charities since Parliament passed the Lotteries and Amusements Act in 1976.
Society lotteries vary in size, but are often quite small, labour intensive, and raise vital funds for hospices, air ambulances, and a whole host of other charities, many of which are essential service providers for members of our community that have particular needs that often are not catered for within the NHS or the larger providers.
In this regard I am honoured to have served as a council member, and subsequently President of the Lotteries Council, for more years than I care to count.
With charities facing an increasingly tough and competitive fundraising environment, these lotteries provide a vital but dependable income stream that enables thousands of charities to serve some of the most disadvantaged people in our society.
Many people buy a ticket to support their local hospice or favourite charity, but they also buy tickets to enjoy a harmless flutter at minimal cost – and some lucky players win prizes as well, which keeps them coming back! Although not life-changing prizes like those which can be won on the National Lottery, who doesn’t like to be called to be told that they have struck lucky and won an unexpected little windfall?
Under current gambling law charity lotteries face a number of regulations that restrict their operation to protect the monopoly of the National Lottery. These regulations include a cap on prizes, which is the fundamental difference between charity lotteries and the National Lottery.
Whilst players of Euromillions now regularly have the chance to win jackpots that have grown to over £70 million, and Lotto players to over £20 million, the top prize for a charity lottery has been stuck at a much more modest £400,000 since 2009. Even this is seldom if ever reached due to the complex way the regulations operate.
Charity Lotteries are also currently restricted to a £10 million annual turnover limit, and a £4 million limit on the value of the tickets in each draw. These limits have been in place since 2007 and 2009 respectively, and not only prevent charities from growing their lotteries, but effectively act as a cap on the amount of money each lottery can raise for the charity – something that was never intended, and is, frankly, ludicrous.
As a party, we Conservatives have always favoured deregulation and reducing red tape where possible and sensible, and it is clear there is now increasing urgency for some deregulation in the area of charity lotteries.
If you were drafting the regulations today would you really propose legislation that arbitrarily restricts the amount of money a charity can raise in any one year? Of course not. The current regulations have now been under review by DCMS since 2012, and include proposals to raise the limits charity lotteries operate under.
Raising the current limits would not constitute any threat to the National Lottery’s overwhelmingly privileged monopoly position, but it would enable charity lotteries substantially to reduce administration costs, and thus generate a significant increase in the funds to good causes.
A decision to cut the red tape binding society lotteries would be a popular one. It has the support of large and small charities across the country as well as the support of organisations such as the Lotteries Council, the Institute of Fundraising, the Hospice Lotteries Association, and many parliamentarians across all parties. Research also shows that more than three quarters of the public believe charity lotteries should have the restrictions on their fundraising relaxed.
Obviously, the National Lottery operator Camelot has consistently opposed these changes, but it is unclear whether this is to protect the National Lottery, or the profits of Camelot plc.
Of course the National Lottery has been a great success, and it is rightly a source of great national pride that after so many years of under-performance, our sportsmen and women are now properly funded so that they can win medals and make us feel proud of them.
But civilised societies are judged not just on the way they perform at sport, or how much they spend looking after their built and artistic heritage, but also on the way they look after the most disadvantaged in society – most of whom have little or no opportunity to engage in sport, or visit art galleries.
As our colleagues Karen Bradley, the Culture Secretary, and Tracey Crouch, the Sport Minister, consider this issue I urge them to raise the lottery limits as the charities have repeatedly asked: increasing the annual turnover limit to £100 million and the draw limit to £10 million.
Politicians are always on the look for popular policies which cost nothing. Well, we have one right here! A policy supported by a great many charities (many of which are household names), which reduces red tape, protects the National Lottery, raises more funds for charity and all at no cost to the taxpayer or the Treasury.
This is surely the policy which can gain cross-party consensus of the type the Prime Minister recently referred to. A winning ticket indeed!