The National Lottery made more than £1 billion from selling “addictive” online games during lockdown, The Telegraph can reveal, amid calls for the products to be ditched.
Camelot, which runs the Government-franchised lottery, sold £1.17 billion of interactive Instant Win games, which can be played online and on mobile phones, in 2020/21.
This record amount of sales during the pandemic – which rose more than 50 per cent from the previous year – came as the company seeks to renew its licence to run the UK’s lottery.
Camelot made a record £8.37 billion in sales from its games, an increase of £468.8 million, the majority of which came from interactive Instant Win games, which MPs have described as “mini casinos”.
The games, including pay-to-win versions of family favourites such as Monopoly and Cluedo, only give 10p out of every pound spent to good causes, compared with twice-weekly draws such as Lotto, which give three times that amount.
The games can be played multiple times, with some costing as much as £5 per play. One, “Wads in Your Wallet”, can be played at least three times a minute for 50p a go.
An industry source who previously worked for Camelot told The Telegraph that games with a higher frequency of betting, like National Lottery Instant Win games, are “more associated with problem gambling”. The source said these games were more likely to be associated with problem gambling than draws that can only be played twice a week.
Camelot offers several forms of “player protection” such as a limit of £350 per week that people can add to their account, as well as a “break in play” after completing a game.
Players can also set their own limits on how much they want to spend, and some may receive targeted messages and even have restrictions placed on them if they constantly max-out their accounts.
Carolyn Harris, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on gambling-related harms, said: “During lockdown, many people who are isolated at home have resorted to gambling on the mini casinos available on their mobile phones.”
Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, said: “The National Lottery was set up to provide funding for good causes and people will perceive them as offering harmless fun. Offering more addictive Instant Win products is very far removed from this and should be stopped immediately.”
In April, The Telegraph revealed that the National Lottery agreed to withdraw online £10 Instant Win games following research by the Gambling Commission that found a link between higher priced games and problem gambling.
A Camelot spokesman said: “Our objective is to raise as much money as possible for good causes – and our online Instant Win games, which have been available for 17 years, form just one part of an enjoyable and safe range of games that offer something for everyone.
“This saw The National Lottery deliver record returns to good causes from sales alone last year. Like many companies, our online sales increased during lockdown, with many people who normally buy their tickets in shops choosing to play online instead.”