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Sun, 27 September 2020

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The health of the National Lottery is central to rebuilding the nation

The health of the National Lottery is central to rebuilding the nation

The National Lottery should, by any definition, be a part of the government’s delivery mechanisms to achieve that new equilibrium. What better tool to level up than one that’s been levelling up, in some form, for over 25 years, asks Matt Vickers MP | PA Images

4 min read

As our wounded nation recovers from the pandemic over the years to come, we need a strong and healthy National Lottery to keep making the needed investments to good causes across the country.

If there’s one positive to be taken from the deadly coronavirus outbreak, it’s the amazing sense of togetherness that’s enveloped the nation. From individual volunteers to charity appeals, the outpouring of selflessness and goodwill up and down the country has been truly inspiring.

When we emerge, bleary eyed from this dreadful pandemic, we must continue to harness this community spirit and carry on the amazing work that’s being done across the land.

A crucial part of this will be maintaining a healthy level of funding for good causes, and for that we need a National Lottery that’s firing on all cylinders.

Since It was established by former Conservative Prime Minister John Major in 1994, the lottery has invested an estimated £40 billion into good causes across the United Kingdom.

But the National Lottery has not been perfect, particularly in recent years. As the former Labour MP Tom Watson remarked late last year before his defeat in the general election, the levels of transparency at the lottery over the distribution of its good causes funding hasn’t always been to the level required.

Lottery players deserve to know where their contributions are going and expect their contributions to go to those most in need across our great country.

Because the gaps within Britain are too big to ignore.

Before Covid-19 came to dominate the national conversation, the government had, quite rightly, decided on turning its attention to its programme of ‘levelling up’ across the regions.

What better tool to level up than one that’s been levelling up, in some form, for over 25 years?

As the new MP for Stockton South I am acutely aware of the challenges facing my constituency and of our need for investment. Once the national fight against coronavirus is won, we must return to this rebalancing effort and plug the North of England, including Teesside, into Britain’s economic future. There is simply too much drive and appetite here to be wasted.

Seen through this prism, the National Lottery should, by any definition, be a part of the government’s delivery mechanisms to achieve that new equilibrium. What better tool to level up than one that’s been levelling up, in some form, for over 25 years?

With the competition for the fourth national lottery licence looming, now is the time to make the changes needed to keep the National Lottery thriving and fit-for-purpose for the next generations.

Although regulated by the Gambling Commission - an executive non-departmental public body - the National Lottery is, in fact, run by a private company. Indeed, since its creation in 1994 it has been run by just one company: Camelot, a Canadian-owned operator based in Hertfordshire. Thankfully, it would seem that this time round we’re in for a serious competition, with experienced operators like the Czech Republic’s Sazka Group - who run national lotteries in several European nations - and Australia’s Tabcorp both rumoured to be considering bids.

Also, it strikes me that if Camelot were to win the license again, for a fourth consecutive time, it should surely raise doubts about the actual competitiveness of the competition.

With an institution approaching state-run lottery status, I wonder whether anyone else would bother expending millions of pounds to ever bid again!

In my view, the fourth licence competition is the most important one yet. As our wounded nation recovers from the pandemic over the years to come, we need a strong and healthy National Lottery to keep making the needed investments to good causes across the country.

That’s why I, for one, am hoping to see a good, open, and fair licence competition, which tests each of the prospective bidders over how they plan to grow the sales of lottery tickets in a market where they have been shrinking for years.

And while I will not be so parochial as to pitch Stockton as a future HQ location of the National Lottery operator just yet, I will be so bold as to say there is life outside of the South East! 

Matt Vickers is Conservative MP for Stockton South.

 

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