Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320-339)
MS HARRIET SPICER AND MR MARK HARRIS
TUESDAY 2 JULY 2002
320. It is all a bit arbitrary, is it not? The Lottery started off on a Saturday night and now it is on Wednesday with the mid-week draw, but you are saying that every five minutes is too much, so where would you say, "Okay, we permit it"once a day, twice a day, three times a day?
(Mr Harris) The position the Government has taken in A Safe Bet for Success in terms of lotteries generallyand that is not the National Lottery, but other lotteriesis that it would not expect draws to be held more often than once every day, and I think there is good reason for that to be a starting point for the Commission and certainly the Commission has considered the possibility of daily games. The proposal has not yet been brought forward, but I do not think the Commission would automatically say, "This is likely to cause a problem", but draws which are much more frequent, it would have much greater concern about.
. Well, let's just go down that line because Harriet Spicer was saying that there are a number of avenues that Camelot could explore. What are those avenues?
(Ms Spicer) Well, as I mentioned, there are the two possibilities of an interactive delivery, and
322. Is this the video lottery terminals?
(Ms Spicer) No, it is not.
323. Right, explain please.
(Ms Spicer) No, it is the possibility of playing on your computer or on your telephone or television, interactive television.
324. What is the difference between that and a video lottery terminal which you will not allow?
(Ms Spicer) The video lottery terminal is one which is in a gambling environment. These computers actually run similar games to scratch cards which are being run now.
325. Would they be in your home, in other words, on your own PC?
(Ms Spicer) Yes, they would. From the moment of the ITA, we did include the intention that the Lottery should be able to keep pace with the interactive activities of the wider gambling environment and we requested that any bidders should pay attention to the possibility of delivering games on interactive media.
326. Why is it that you do not allow it in a specialist gambling hall presumably because you do not want people going into gambling halls and being corrupted, but you are allowing maybe possibly young kids to be playing it in their bedroom while mummy and daddy are downstairs watching Eastenders?
(Ms Spicer) I think there are two things there. The difference between the video lottery terminals is that they are run for commercial success, and nobody would run them otherwise, with very large linked prizes and that is the inherent difference between them and the scratch cards and the level of prizes which will be offered on computers. The second point that was made was that about control of play when you have a computer in the home and there are two ways in which that is being addressed, and in fact we are in discussion about this, so matters are not finalised and the licence has not been agreed. We are agreeing all the best possible surrounding protections to this activity, the first being the existence of a "Net nanny". That is a wildly untechnical term, but I think it is one that serves, I hope, an understandable purpose in that any home can include or exclude access to a site from their computer. Once the decision has been taken by the household which route they will go, whether to have access to that site or not or whether their children can be excluded from it by a password, then we are working on a substantial and very thoughtful list of controls around play, such that you cannot have too much money going into your play wallet if you win a prize, that you set your own limits for the amount of play, that you are, therefore, alerted when you reach that limit; a great many, if you like, specifics on that which we would be more than happy to go into and we are working on a great many protections around this activity.
327. Moving on to another area, but a related area, I have got in my constituency, we all have, I suspect, a hospice called St Giles' Hospice in the village of Whittington, and they raise money by having a lottery, and it is very successful too, but you are being a little mean because you will not allow St Giles' Hospice or any other hospice or any other charity to have a lottery with a life-changing prize because that is uniquely in the hands of Camelot. Why are you doing that?
(Ms Spicer) I hope I would not look sophistical if I say precisely the answer to that question is the area of regulation. I have no desire personally as the regulator of the Lottery to exclude or decide who should do other things. I believe that is quite properly a decision for others, for the Government. What we did to the best of our ability was to display evidence, facts and numbers as to what was our best-informed and calculated guess, working with Camelot figures, as to what might happen to the Lottery and beyond that point it became a decision for public policy.
328. If it were not public policy, if the Government devolved it down to you so that you could not pass that buck, would you welcome the opportunity to allow other lotteries to offer, in competition with Camelot, life-changing prizes?
(Ms Spicer) I would hope to achieve a balance because an enormous amount is achieved by charity lotteries and one can never feel comfortable at wiping something out entirely, so I think the task would be to achieve balance and we would hope to do that.
329. And by "balance", you mean you would allow some of these other companies and some other organisations to provide competition for Camelot if you had your way?
(Ms Spicer) I hope I have understood your question properly. If not, please ask it again. What I was actually thinking was the kind of balance was that achieved by saying, "Yes, we address the requests of society lotteries by doubling their turnover and prize limits".
330. But that is not life-changing.
(Ms Spicer) No, so we have tried to achieve a balance, but chosen to go down the route of acknowledging the monopoly position of the Lottery for the public good and have chosen not to free it up entirely.
331. So let me ask my question again as I had not made myself clear, for which I apologise. You said, as I understand it, that it had been a Government decision that Camelot should enjoy the monopoly that only they can offer a lottery with a life-changing prize, £1 million, £2 million, £10 million or more. If that decision were devolved down to you, so it was not a Government decision, it would be up to you to allow, and I do not know how St Giles' Hospice would be able to do it, but if St Giles' Hospice or some other society came to you and said, "We would like to be able to offer a £10 million jackpot prize", and it were up to you, would you allow it?
(Ms Spicer) Hypothetical questionsI am not the person. I have not been sitting and going through all the due diligence that I would be obliged to go through in order to answer that question properly.
Michael Fabricant: Well, maybe not St Giles' Hospice, but the principle.
Chairman: Michael, I think we have got your point.
Michael Fabricant: I have not got her point though.
Chairman: Because she is speaking within her remit and she is speaking very specifically within her remit. It might well be argued that her remit should be broadened, but it is not for her to say that. She operates under the legislation.
332. What a shame.
(Ms Spicer) Well, I am very sorry not to be able to say, but, Chairman, you have put my position perfectly, if I may say so. Thank you.
Chairman: You managed to get your constituency stuff in quite well, Michael!
333. I will continue with Mr Fabricant's points. I am not quite sure whether you are there to protect us as members of the public or to protect the Lottery.
(Ms Spicer) I would hope to be able to do both.
334. The reason I mention that is that Sir Alan Budd wanted the regulation on society lotteries to be taken away, in other words, for prizes to be unlimited and potentially life-changing, and you very kindly put out as an organisation saying that this would impact the National Lottery by £168 million a year. Lo and behold, when the Government puts in their recommendation on society lotteries' maximum size, which then relates to the maximum size of prizes they can give out, it goes from only £1 million to £2 million. Did you lobby at all for that?
(Ms Spicer) No, not at all. We thought very carefully about what the role of the Commission was in response to the report. We chose to give our informed opinion to the Department and to review for the thoroughness, methodology and assumptions of the work that had been supplied by Camelot from two different organisations, Pricewatercoopers and the Henley Centre. We made absolutely no attempt to lobby or come up with specific proposals, but merely to give guidance as to the likely possible outcome.
335. So £1 million to £2 million turnover, when the weekly turnover on the main Lotto games is £60 million, is it, or something like that, from memory, so 3 per cent, whatever it is, is quite a small figure, £2 million out of £60 million. Do you think that that £2 million is a balance against £60 million in terms of turnover for either a charity in my constituency, Taunton, or Lichfield? Do you think that is a balance?
(Ms Spicer) I think that that figure of itself was put together with all of the challenges on the Lottery, so when we are talking about balance, it is not even as simple as one balance against another. It is not only the society lotteries, but there is also bingo, the entirety of the changed environment that will exist for the Lottery. All of these things were taken into account when the Government came down with their decision.
336. Although there is an element of change proposed by the Government, and you operate not as an operator looking after a monopoly provider because it is not, it is an immense oligopoly. As an oligopoly, I am worried that the competition has been stifled at the one opportunity it will have for several years to change it and I am worried that you are not, as an organisation, acting on behalf of us the people and forcing the balance too much against us in favour of the Lottery.
(Ms Spicer) Well, when I said that I hoped to work for both, by that I mean only the people as they choose to engage with the Lottery. In our duties we have as a priority the interests of players and those always come first before good causes. One must have a fair game which advantages players, so to the extent that I said I have a duty for the people in the widest sense, that is as they engage with the Lottery. Again I do have recourse to the clarity of our remit in this matter.
337. Because for a substantial number of people, it is for the good causes that the Lottery is able to pass money on to that they play it, and certainly that is why I do it because I know I am giving some money to charities. If more people understood that the society lotteries give a greater percentage of their money direct to the charities, potentially you are given a choice to donate more when playing rather than having someone decide who gets that money, and I appreciate it is not the Commission, then more people are likely to play them. But then at the same time one is not given the potential to receive large amounts of money which also enables them to give more money to charity.
(Ms Spicer) Well, I think there one would look to the benefits of the oligopoly and the size of the game that the Lottery can offer because it does trickle back down through the distribution bodies to a very wide range of good causes, and appreciation of that factor is the one that can meet your concerns for the local hospice and so on.
338. I think there is a lack of flexibility in the way some of the money is spent and I do not think that is appreciated by a number of players who play it for charity.
(Ms Spicer) To an extent that is true. I think we welcome the fact that not only is the gambling environment being reviewed, but the relicensing of the Lottery and also the distribution bodies and certainly that is a considerable part of the operator's long-term development of the good standing of the Lottery. I think we really welcome that in the review as well.
339. Thank you very much indeed. It is not always my practice to protect witnesses from Members of the Committee, but Mr Fabricant showed even greater enthusiasm than he normally does.
(Ms Spicer) May I say it felt positively gallant, if that is not an inappropriate remark to make to you, Chairman.