The operator of the National Lottery has lost a High Court action in which it accused a lotteries watchdog of failing in its legal duty to protect it from newspaper and magazine publisher Richard Desmond’s controversial “rival” Health Lottery.
Camelot UK Lotteries had asked two judges in London to declare that the Gambling Commission is “unlawfully and unreasonably” failing to set up an adequate review of The Health Lottery (THL) scheme.
The scheme manages and promotes rival draws on behalf of 51 organisations and charities, raising money for a variety of health causes in what are known as “society lotteries”.
Camelot claimed that, because of the extent to which the 51 are controlled and accountable to THL, the scheme is not a collection of single lotteries but has become a rival national lottery.
It also claims the scheme is costing it £1 million a week.
At a hearing in July it was argued on behalf of the Commission that Camelot’s legal challenge was fatally flawed by delays in seeking judicial review and was a “disguised” attempt to interfere with the Commission’s exercise of its discretion.
Camelot’s action was dismissed today by the two judges.
In a written ruling Lord Justice Stanley Burnton, who heard the case with Mr Justice Kenneth Parker, announced that he would “refuse Camelot permission to proceed with its claim for judicial review, on the grounds of its delay and its failure to establish a claim with a real prospect of success”.
He said he agreed with the Commission “that the question whether multiple society lotteries should be permitted is a political question, to be determined by the Government or Parliament”.
After the ruling, Camelot said it was “disappointed” by the judgment and “intends to lodge papers with the Court of Appeal against what we believe to be a legally flawed and unfair decision by the court”.
It added in a statement that despite the ruling it welcomed the fact that the case has “clearly highlighted the need for urgent Government action to close a loophole in the Gambling Act 2005”, which it says “has been used by The Health Lottery to position itself as a direct rival to The National Lottery”.
Dianne Thompson, Camelot Group CEO, said: “It is now imperative that the Government acts to close this loophole and to ensure that the law mirrors the intention and will of Parliament that there should be only one National Lottery.
“Time is of the essence – the longer the period of political inaction, the more incentive there is for other commercial operators to establish similar mass-market lotteries that would effectively cannibalise National Lottery sales and returns to the good causes.
“We are therefore calling on the Government to set out immediately the process and the timetable it intends to pursue in order to discharge its ultimate responsibility for The National Lottery and the good causes it supports.”