Sir Keith Mills GBE is the Bid Chairman for Allwyn.
In the next few weeks, the regulator of the National Lottery, the Gambling Commission, will decide who will be the future operator for the National Lottery.
The National Lottery has been a huge force for good since it was launched in 1994. Not only has it generated over £45 billion for good causes, it has also generated significant sums for the Treasury. It has improved communities, transformed the lives of countless families for the better, and given enormous fun to millions.
Many of us remember Noel Edmonds on Saturday night TV and the excitement of the big draw. For only £1, people could have a flutter and dream of winning a life-changing prize. Around two thirds of the UK population played, and Sir John Major’s original idea proved to be an outstanding success.
Twenty-seven years have since passed, and for the last two years, the Gambling Commission has been running a competition by inviting companies to submit applications to be the next operator.
I accepted the offer of Chairing the bid from Allwyn because I was impressed with the credentials of the company I was joining. As one of Europe’s largest lottery operators with a proven track record of revitalising lotteries, Allwyn felt like the fix that was needed. As I got to work, digging into the statistics to understand things better, it soon became apparent to me that it really was time for change.
Why do I say this? Because if we look back at the last ten years or more there are some worrying trends that will need to be addressed by whoever is the next operator.
First, since the start of Camelot’s operation of the current licence in 2010, despite a growing adult population, millions of UK consumers no longer take part; around 5.8 million people who used to play have now stopped doing so. The next operator will need to find a way to win them back.
Second, in the same timeframe, the percentage of revenue going to good causes has dropped from 28 per cent to 23 per cent. Indeed, Camelot delivered £10 billion less to good causes than they had promised for the second and third licences. This is obviously a worrying trend that needs to be reversed.
Third, the only significant growth in Camelot’s sales from 1999 has been from instant win games and scratch cards – draw based games sales have remained unchanged over the same period. This is also a worrying trend for two reasons: these instant win games deliver a substantially smaller contribution to good causes compared to draw based games, and there is research to suggest they are more likely to lead to problematic behaviour.
The new operator will need to focus on growing draw-based games; these generate more money for good causes, and are less risky when it comes to gambling harm.
Finally, the new operator will need to connect with the next generation. In recent years, under the current operator, there has been a trend of declining participation amongst younger people. My son and daughter, who are in their thirties, have never played – they think it’s for older people (like me!).
The Gambling Commission has the task of deciding which company should operate the National Lottery for the next ten years: stick with Camelot, the company that has run it since its inception in 1994 and which is now owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, or choose another company. It has confirmed there are four applicants, with three new companies bidding alongside Camelot. The competition process has been confidential, and none of the four companies has been able to talk about its proposals in public.
Many rely on the success of the National Lottery: the National Lottery Distributors, the thousands of charities, and good causes that benefit, and, of course, HM Treasury. No doubt all want the Commission to select an operator that can reconnect the National Lottery with the British public, responsibly bringing back lost players and inspiring and engaging a new generation. An operator who can develop new exciting games and cutting-edge technology, who can better understand their audience and what they want.
In the digital age of brands like Amazon and Google, and with the proliferation of social media, the National Lottery has a wonderful opportunity to be at the beating heart of our nation again, generating substantially more money for good causes.
For all these reasons, when they select the next operator, I obviously hope the Gambling Commission selects Allwyn. We have transformed national lotteries across Europe and have invested significantly in our British business to be fully ready to deliver the next exciting chapter for the National Lottery.
But whoever gets selected, they must reverse these worrying trends. We are convinced that change is necessary and that Allwyn has what it takes to deliver an exciting future.
The National Lottery is intended to be an institution for good, and deserves to be one of the UK’s greatest success stories; it is our collective responsibility to realise that for future generations.