The UK’s Health Lottery has launched a new online casino that promises to contribute a portion of all profits to good causes across the UK. Health Games resembles any other online casino with slots, table games, slingo and even live dealer games all licensed by the UK Gambling Commission.
HealthGames.co.uk is the result of a partnership between the Health Lottery and Gaming Realms plc, which both companies announced last month. Health Lottery Director of Gaming Yakir Firestane said this about the launch of the new casino site:
“We are very excited to launch Health Games, which will offer our customers a great variety of slot and instant win games in a socially responsible environment.
“Health Games is one of the only gaming sites in Britain offering state-of-the-art games while still supporting good causes donating a portion of its profits to UK health-related charities.”
The Health Lottery was launched in 2011 and operates as a collection of 51 local society lotteries that each represent local authority areas across Great Britain. The various society lotteries operate in rotation, each taking turns raising money for local charities. The Health Lottery contributes 20% of profits to good causes and has donated £96 million to date.
Richard Desmond, billionaire owner of the Daily Express and Sunday Express, runs the Health Lottery and has stated he hopes to take over for Camelot after its current contract to run the UK National Lottery expires in 2023.
Camelot has questioned Desmond’s motives in seeking to acquire the National Lottery, but then again, that’s what Camelot would do as the current contract-holders to run one of the biggest lotteries in the world.
Desmond’s bid to run the National Lottery will come at an inconvenient time for Camelot. Last year, Camelot reported an 8.8% decline (paywall) in ticket sales and a 14.4% decline in money donated to good causes. Camelot also predicted further declines for the 2017/2018 year.
A Truly Charitable Spirit?
While the Health Games website explains that it donates a portion of all profits to good causes, it does not say exactly what percentage of profits are donated. The Health Lottery has not turned a profit since its launch in 2011, but has nonetheless been criticised in the past for contributing just 20% of ticket sales to good causes. By comparison, the National Lottery contributes 28% to good causes.
Ben Kernighan, Deputy Chief Executive for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, was unimpressed when the Health Lottery first launched. At the time, he said the Health Lottery donates “just above the legal minimum in terms of contribution. We’d like that to increase over time. Really, the best way to give to charities is to do so directly.”
Kernighan tried to give the Health Lottery the benefit of the doubt at the time when he said he understands that “when a lottery starts up there are upfront costs. Once you reach a certain volume of sales, those costs are not there and we would expect providers to maximize the amount going to good causes.”
Six years later, the Health Lottery website still explains that they donate 20% to good causes. Health Games doesn’t even say what percentage of revenue they donate, so I’ll refrain from assuming it’s a whole lot.
On the other hand, it is possible the Health Lottery would like to donate more than 20%, but simply cannot due to costs. The company is losing money, after all. Local societal lotteries are regulated more tightly than the National Lottery and Desmond has begged officials to loosen the restrictions placed on the Health Lottery so that the Health Lottery can break even and donate more to charity.