More Problems for National Lottery Licence Campaign

The process to decide who will win the next ten-year National Lottery licence has run into more trouble. John Whittingdale MP is the minister in charge of gambling and lotteries. It has now been revealed that there may well be a conflict of interest for Whittingdale.

His daughter is Alice Whittingdale, and she works for a lobbying firm employed by Camelot. That just happens to be the company who have been operating the National Lottery and bidding for the new licence.

The Times newspaper revealed that Alice Whittingdale joined PR company Pagefield three years ago after graduating from university. It wasn’t until March of this year that her father was given the responsibility of looking after British gambling legislation. This includes lotteries and also the review of the 2005 Gambling Act. Sports minister Nigel Huddleston MP had previous been in that position.

Whittingdale did place details of his daughter’s job on the parliamentary register of members’ interests. He put her down as a “researcher” but that doesn’t tally with what is written on the Pagefield’s website, where her job is described as a “senior executive.”

Now there are questions being asked about the transparency of the process to decide who is granted the new licence. The Gambling Commission announced earlier this month that the decision they make will be delayed until February of next year. This was due to the complicated process and Covid-19 causing delays.

Matt Zarb-Cousin from the Clean Up Gambling campaign has concerns over the bidding process. He told The Times: “Alongside the former gambling minister Hugh Robertson subsequently being appointed chair of Camelot, these revelations call into question the impartiality of an opaque process for the next lottery licence. There has to be appropriate scrutiny of Camelot’s poor record, and the public has a right to know what other operators bidding for the contract would do differently.”

In response, the Gambling Commission say that the minister has no direct involvement in their decision which company receives the new National Lottery licence. Pagefield say that Alice Whittingdale has not been working on the Camelot account.

A statement made by a spokesperson for John Whittingdale defended the minister. It said: “This is absolute nonsense, and any allegations of impropriety are completely unfounded. It was all properly disclosed and considered by civil servants prior to John taking on the gambling brief.”

Transparency campaigner Dr Alex May says that she is “astonished” that the other bidders haven’t “called out Mr Whittingdale on this.” Aside from Camelot, the other companies that are bidding to run the National Lottery from 2024 are: Sisal (who run the Italian SuperEnalotto), Sugal & Damani from India and the Czech Republic’s Sazka Group under the name Allwyn.