Friday June 8, 2012 : CONTROVERSIAL UK LOTTERY AWARDED ONLINE GAMBLING LICENCE
UK Gambling Commission grants Daily Express owner's charity project an internet casino licence despite opposition from rival Camelot
The Guardian newspaper reported Friday that Richard Desmond's Health Lottery has been granted an online casino gambling licence by the UK Gambling Commission despite opposition from rival lottery firm and national lottery operator Camelot.
The Health Lottery is a subsidiary of Northern & Shell, which owns Express Newspapers, OK! magazine and Channel 5, and was launched last September as a socially-minded alternative to the UK National Lottery.
The Guardian notes that it has underperformed, raising only half the GBP 50 million a year promised for good causes and racking up a pre-tax loss of GBP 28.5 million in its first three months. Chief executive Martin Hall stepped down in April.
The new licence will allow Desmond to expand the Health Lottery offer to "casino games and/or other virtual gaming by remote communication (for example roulette, balckjack, poker [or] reel games)".
The award of the licence has been confirmed by the Commission.
A Northern & Shell spokesman told the newspaper that the online casino product will have its own brand separate from the Health Lottery.
"Health Lottery ELM Ltd applied for this licence 12 months ago and at present, there is no specific timeline for launching any online casino games," said the spokesman.
A bitter legal dispute is current raging between The Health Lottery and Camelot, which has initiated a judicial review challenging the Gambling Commission's decision not to revoke The Health Lotteries' lottery licence.
Other detractors of the Health Lottery weighed in on the report of the new licence, with charity associations leader Sir Stephen Bubb commenting rather strongly in the Guardian:
"What planet are the Gambling Commission on that they think it is a good idea, midway through a judicial review into their decision to license the Health Lottery, to let the same group run casinos?
"Our fear remains that the Health Lottery will damage charitable income in this country, and that on that basis it should never have been given a licence."