Image credit: Magnus D
The UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has announced that it will be introducing new licensing provisions to prohibit lottery betting sites from offering bets on the outcome of EuroMillions drawings.
In a findings report published on 30 November, the DCMS explains that Section 95 of the Gambling Act “sets out a clear prohibition on offering bets on National Lottery draws, yet some operators currently offer bets on EuroMillions draws outside the UK. Such products are clearly at odds with the intention and spirit of the Act.”
Lottery betting sites such as Lottoland and Jackpot.com are unable to offer betting on the UK National Lottery, but have been able to use a legal loophole to offer wagers on the outcome of EuroMillions drawings. That loophole rests on the fact that international lotteries such as EuroMillions hold drawings all over the world. Thus, lottery sites can offer bets on EuroMillions drawings that take place in Spain, France and so on without violating UK law.
The DCMS is now looking to shut down that loophole and prevent people in the UK from betting on EuroMillions drawings whatsoever. The actual proposal has not been submitted, but a paper published by the DCMS states that they want to specifically prohibit customers in Great Britain from betting on EuroMillions. This seems to indicate lottery sites may still be allowed to offer EuroMillions bets to customers located elsewhere, but we will not know for sure until the proposal is unveiled.
My best guess is customers located in other countries will still be allowed to bet on EuroMillions, except in cases where local laws also prohibit doing so. The UK Gambling Commission seems primarily concerned with stopping customers from betting on lotteries that are already available to those customers via real-world ticket purchases.
Betting on the UK National Lottery is already prohibited for UK customers, but UK customers are free to bet on many other international drawings. An impact assessment published by the DCMS also stated that they have no plans to “go as far as to reclassify or ban all betting on lotteries.”
That same paper referenced above pointed to four chief concerns the DCMS has regarding the ability to bet on local lotteries:
- Money is not raised for good causes: Lottery betting sites do not return money to good causes and charitable organizations like the actual lottery does. As lotto betting sites cannibalize money from the real lottery, less funding is made available for good causes.
- Parasitic relationship: Not only do lottery betting sites not have to donate funds to charitable causes, but they also do not have to invest in running the lottery, employing people to maintain the lottery, researching new games, investing in advertising, establishing a brand and so on. In other words, lottery betting sites are able to piggyback off the investments made by actual lotto organizers.
- Blurred boundaries: There are concerns that the differences between two totally different gambling sectors (betting and lotteries) are becoming unclear and overlapped. This can also cause confusion for customers who may believe they are participating in the lottery but are actually only betting on the lottery. It also creates an unfair competition situation when lottery betting sites are able to piggyback off the name of lotteries but without contributing to good causes.
- Lost sales for retailers: Retailers have raised concerns that the availability of betting on lotteries online reduces traffic, which in turn hurts sales in general. That’s in addition to the loss of commissions paid for selling EuroMillions tickets.
Lottery Messenger Services Not Affected
Lottery messenger services which sell actual official lottery tickets appear to be in no danger of facing new prohibitions. The DCMS is focused entirely on lottery betting with this current proposal.
Sites such as TheLotter, which buy and re-sell official lottery tickets, will be able to continue to sell UK Lotto and EuroMillions tickets as normal. Lottery messenger services were not even mentioned in any of the papers linked-to today except for one note which stated that one of the potential impacts of a EuroMillions betting prohibition ban would be to stimulate unregulated lottery messenger services.
However, the UK government does not have as much to fear from lottery ticket re-sellers because customers who purchase those tickets online still contribute to the actual lottery. In fact, it is likely online ticket sales expand the reach and scope of major drawings by making tickets to those drawings available to an international audience.
One unnamed lottery operator was mentioned in the report of actually supporting the idea of lottery messenger services in order to “meet international demand, and raise increased funds for good causes.”
As far as lottery betting sites are concerned, they will most likely soon be forced to stop accepting EuroMillions bets. EuroMillions bets are still shown as available at Lottoland.co.uk and Jackpot.com as of this writing, but both sites are licensed by the UK Gambling Commission and will almost certainly comply with the prohibition when it takes effect.