The approval of the Health Lottery by the Gambling Commission has come under scrutiny by a parliamentary committee, which has requested a copy of the legal advice the Commission obtained ahead of its decision.
At a Culture, Media and Sport select committee meeting yesterday, Conservative MP Therese Coffey asked the chief executive of the Gambling Commission, Jenny Williams (pictured), why the 51 separate lottery licences had been granted to the same three people.
Coffey said: “It seems to the man or woman on the street that it is just another national lottery.”
Williams replied that the Health Lottery licences were granted because “they met the legal criteria”.
But she added: “If you are saying, was this a scheme designed to get around the National Lottery limits? Then clearly it was.”
Williams emphasised that other society lotteries also combine for marketing purposes.
The Committee then asked to see the legal advice that the Gambling Commission obtained in relation to the Health Lottery. Williams has been given time to think about the request and, at the time of writing, has not yet made a decision.
Also giving evidence to the Committee was the minister for tourism and heritage, John Penrose who said it was too early to tell what impact the Health Lottery was having on the National Lottery.
He said that the government was “watching very closely the impact the Health Lottery has” but he felt that it was distinct from the National Lottery because “it is raising money for something that the National Lottery does not”.
Earlier this week the Health Lottery claimed that its launch had not had any impact on the National Lottery. These claims were later disputed by Camelot, the organisation that runs the National Lottery.
Penrose also said that other society lotteries may wish to learn something from how the Health Lottery has structured itself. "And if they decide they do," he said, "they might then also get very annoyed if I start closing stable doors on them just as they were about to walk through them."
Bubb responds to criticism
Meanwhile, Sir Stephen Bubb, chair of Acevo, has also responded to criticism of him by Jeremy Muller, director of the 51 community interest companies (CIC) that make up the Health Lottery. Muller said that Bubb was “out of touch” because he had never worked in business.
On his blog he wrote: “I know from my health sector members that they very much have a businesslike approach to their organisation. And as many of my health CEO members have, like me, never worked in the private sector he must think they are out of touch too.”
Bubb added that the Health Lottery could end the dispute with him by bringing the amount it gives to charity in line with the National Lottery and increasing the amount it gives to charity to 28p in the pound.