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Lotto betting companies threaten legal challenge to EuroMillions bet restrictions

A number of lotto betting companies have threatened to lodge a UK legal challenge against the introduction of new laws that would prohibit them from offering or accepting bets on the outcome of EuroMillions lottery draws.26 Feb 2018

Under The Gambling Act 2005 (Operating Licence Conditions) (Amendment) Regulations 2018, which are to apply from 6 April this year, gambling operators in Great Britain would be considered to be in breach of their licensing conditions if they continue to offer bets on EuroMillions draws.

Operators can currently take bets from UK-based customers on the outcome of EuroMillions draws taking place in other countries. Existing gambling legislation in the UK prohibits the operators from accepting bets on the outcome of The National Lottery and on the EuroMillions UK draw.

Lotto Betting Group has submitted a 'letter before claim' to the UK government which has called on the government to suspend the approval process for the new regulations before the UK parliament. The group includes Lottoland, an operator that has been critical of the government's plans on this issue previously.

In a statement, Lotto Betting Group said the new regulations would breach EU rules that provide businesses with freedom to provide services across the whole EU and described the UK government's decision to introduce the legislation as "irrational" and "unreasonable".

"The Lotto Betting Group believes that the decision to prohibit betting on non-UK EuroMillions draws was unjustified and was based on inconclusive evidence," the group said. "This belief has been supported by the recent publication of the National Audit Office report, which confirms that the fall in National Lottery income for good causes in 2016-17 was due to a move away from National Lottery draw based games to Instant games and not as a result of lottery betting. Instant games have a lower return to good causes, which led to the decline."

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) confirmed to that it had received the letter from Lotto Betting Group and said the government would "respond in due course."

DCMS has previously said that betting on EuroMillions draws outside the UK is "clearly contrary to the spirit" of section 95 of the Gambling Act of 2005 – the legislation that prohibits betting on the outcome of The National Lottery and on the EuroMillions UK draw.

The government has also said that enabling bets on non-UK EuroMillions draws "poses a potential threat to good cause returns", but it has admitted that the "current evidence base is not conclusive on the future impact on lottery revenues (and therefore the returns to good causes) attributable to betting on lotteries".

In response to an earlier DCMS consultation on the change to the law, Lottoland presented evidence to which it said showed that its presence in the market "has had no effect on UK EuroMillions ticket sales".

"With the legislation due to come into force very shortly, this is an interesting twist in this matter," gambling law expert Christopher Rees-Gay of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said. "We have previously raised concerns that it is a dangerous precedent for mandatory conditions to be added to operating licences without there being real evidence to support the changes. Although currently only a joint letter before claim has been sent, it will be interesting to see how the DCMS addresses the concerns raised and whether a judicial review will be launched."