Is The Lottery Treated Differently To Other Gambling Products?

is lottery gamblingThe National Lottery of the United Kingdom was established back in 1994 as a state-franchised operation. The Camelot Group is currently responsible for operating it, and it is regulated by the UK Gambling Commission. Set up under a government licence from John Major’s Conservative rule in 1993, the first draw officially took place the following year on November 19 via a televised program hosted by Noel Edmonds.

State lotteries were originally established by the Bank of England as a way of generating money for good causes, and as a way of funding Britain in war times. Early English lotteries included the Million Lottery of 1694 and the Malt Lottery of 1697. And it was part of a 1934 Act that further liberalised the lottery sector, with additional permissions granted in 1956 and 1976.

The 1994 National Lottery was also brought to the fore as a way of generating money for the same good causes around the country. As a result, around £36 million every week on average is donated to various projects, with around 400 new projects being supported on a weekly basis through such. However, it is important to check how this looks against other forms of legal gambling. Is the National Lottery really comparable to casino gaming or sports betting?

It seems like playing the lottery is considered to be a lot more of an accepted form of gambling than other forms. Is this actually true, though? Do people, and indeed the UK Government, treat lottery gameplay in a different way to poker, casino gaming and so on? Let’s take a closer look at this question and figure out whether there is an attitude towards the National Lottery that makes it stand out more.

Is The National Lottery Different?

national lottery station in a shopIt isn’t uncommon for advertisements and commercials promoting the lottery and its games to utilise certain phrases that would normally be deemed inexcusable for other forms of gambling. When it comes to the lottery, you will frequently see advertisements featuring wording like, “Win Life Changing Sums of Money” and “Play Now”. It is known within the gambling industry that such wording cannot be used as a way of promoting an online or even land-based casino. This is because it is seen as pushing people towards engaging in gambling, which is against the law as set out by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

In section 17.3.1 of the ASA’s Broadcast Code, it is stated that gambling advertisements must not “portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm”. Further along, it also states that advertisements promoting gambling should not suggest that it is a way of escaping from personal problems or be a route to tackling financial concerns or a way of achieving financial security.

A commercial aired by the National Lottery in 2014 to celebrate 20 years of its activity, which is available on YouTube, has the words ‘Life Changing’ included in it. That seemingly dictates that you will be able to change your life by purchasing a lottery ticket and playing the game. How is it that the National Lottery is able to provide this sort of advertisement to people, which seems to act in stark contrast to the rules laid out by the ASA?

There have been several instances in the past where online casino operators have been fined huge sums of money for promoting their sites in a similar way. Yet, no such fine has been handed out to the National Lottery for its commercials and advertisements that heavily promote its game options.

The National Lottery is still a gambling game at the end of the day, regardless of the fact that it was set up so as to help good causes in the first instance. Why does it seem to be one rule for The National Lottery and another rule for all the other gambling options available in the United Kingdom? And is there any difference in the legal language between that set out for the lottery and that for the alternatives?

Lottery Legislation Versus Casino Legislation

uk flag lady justice gavelIn the United Kingdom gambling laws are governed under the Gambling Act 2005. That Act sets out three primary objectives, which are:

  • To prevent gambling from being used as a source of crime and/or disorder, associated with crime/and or disorder or used to support crime.
  • To ensure that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way.
  • To protect children and other vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling.

The Gambling Commission must pursue these objectives when carrying out any functions under the 2005 Act.

It is also true to say that the 2005 Act determines different “types” of gambling, including the following:

  • Casino gaming
  • Equal chance gaming like bingo
  • Betting
  • Lottery

As you can see from these selections, casino gameplay is considered a type, different to betting and lottery.

Gambling is defined by UK law as one of the following:

  • Gaming – which is basically playing a game of chance for a prize reward. This includes games that involve both chance and skill.
  • Betting – which is usually used to reference placing wagers on sports or other similar events.
  • Participating in a lottery.

Lotteries cannot be run for private or commercial gain and will be defined as simple lotteries if a payment is required to participate, one or more prizes are allocated, and the allocation of prizes relies wholly on chance. A complex lottery, on the other hand, exists if in addition to the first two points mentioned on simple lotteries, prizes are allocated by a series of process, with the first of those relying solely on chance. The National Lottery is considered to be different to the other two main types of lotteries though, which are society lotteries and private lotteries. The National Lottery is actually subject to separate legislation, in terms of being compared against both alternative forms of gambling and alternative lottery types.

National Lottery Legislation

lottery ticket close upIt’s also true to say that the National Lottery has legislation in place from the ASA regarding how it is able to advertise. Yet, the same sort of wording is utilised for this as pertains to other forms of gambling. Section 18.2 of the legislation reads:

Advertisements must not:

  • “portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial social or emotional harm”
  • “suggest that participating in a lottery can provide an escape from personal, professional or educational problems such as loneliness or depression”
  • “suggest that participating in a lottery can be a solution to financial concerns, an alternative to employment or a way to achieve financial security. Advertisers may, however, refer to other benefits of winning a prize”
  • “portray participating in a lottery as indispensable or as taking priority in life, for example, over family, friends or professional or educational commitments”
  • “suggest peer pressure to participate in a lottery or disparage abstention”

It is most likely due to the final line on the third point that allows lottery advertisements to introduce other wording into their advertisements. Furthermore, the UK National Lottery may be advertised under The National Lottery etc Act 1993.

Section 12 of The National Lottery etc Act 1993, as amended in 2018, dictates the following phrases:

“The Secretary of State may by regulations make such provision in relation to the promotion of lotteries that form part of the National Lottery as he considers necessary or expedient.

Such regulations may in particular impose requirements or restrictions as to –

  1. The minimum age of persons to whom or by whom tickets or chances may be sold;
  2. The places, circumstances or manner in which tickets or chances may be sold or persons may be invited to buy them;
  3. The information that must appear in an advertisement for a lottery;
  4. The places, circumstances or manner in which signs relating to a lottery may be displayed.”

Looking at section c, this seems to suggest that the Secretary of State has control over how the promotion of lotteries takes place. Requirements or restrictions can be placed on the advertisements put forward by the National Lottery with regard to the information appearing within them. Theoretically, if the Secretary of State requests that an advert for the lottery should utilise the words, “Life Changing”, then the National Lottery should comply. But, would that really be the instance?

Well, because the lottery is ruled over by The National Lottery etc Act 1993 when it comes to advertising, as opposed to all other forms of gambling being ruled over by the ASA legislation.

Should The Lottery Be Treated Differently?

playing the national lottery

The legislation is definitely in place to cater heavily to the National Lottery when it comes to advertising standards. Is it right that this is the case, though?

Well, there is the point to make about how the lottery is generating funds that go towards good causes, and this is theoretically what the government should be funding. Because of this, does the UK Government allow the lottery to get away with more in its advertisements. Especially when it comes to the rules in place for the country’s other legal gambling options?

Well, it would be true to say that the lottery has a little more lenience in terms of the rules in place around its own advertising practices. But also, perhaps the government does provide it with more freedom to promote itself in a way that it likes as well. After all, if there is no money being generated by the National Lottery for the large number of projects in the country, then it would be left down to them to somehow come up with the funds. Not being able to do that would surely put them in a negative light with the country’s population. Perhaps it is much simpler for them to just let certain things slide by without commenting on them.

This cannot be said about casinos and other gambling options in the UK, because the revenue generated by them doesn’t specifically go towards funding projects around the country. While revenue is taxed at 21% from online casinos and at varying levels for land-based games, this goes straight into the Government’s coffers to distribute how it likes, rather than proportionately to good causes.

To add to this, the range of games and difference in betting values does tend to mean that other forms of gambling experience higher levels of addiction than the National Lottery. Campaigns have been led so as to tighten up the laws surrounding casino gambling advertising in previous years, although the lottery hasn’t really been focused on during these campaigns as such.