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MPs criticise lottery operator Camelot over problem gambling

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MPs criticise lottery operator Camelot over problem gambling

A cross-party group of MPs has called for ministers to consider action against the national lottery operator, Camelot, arguing a move towards app-based games rather than traditional draws risks worsening problem gambling and reducing the amounts given to good causes.

The move from Conservative and Labour MPs comes after Camelot’s most recent results showed that two-thirds of sales growth in 2020 and 2021 came through so-called instant win games, primarily online, a process in part caused by Covid lockdowns. Overall, mobile sales rose from £1.606bn in 2020 to £2.482bn in 2021.

Ministers have previously expressed concern that the lottery’s shift towards more online games could become “a gateway to problem gambling”, with the minimum age for taking part increased this year from 16 to 18.

The MPs said that 9% of proceeds of instant win games, comprising scratchcards as well as online games, go to community causes, against 31% of draw-based game sales. They said the proportion of overall sales contributed had fallen from 28% in 2012-13 to 21% in 2020-21.

Camelot, which is bidding to keep the lottery licence it has held since it began in 1994 beyond 2023, rejects the criticism, saying the growth of online sales also includes traditional draws bought via the app, and is part of a wider shift in gambling patterns. It also notes that overall sums given to good causes have continued to increase, and argues its record on problem gambling is good.

But Alexander Stafford, the Conservative MP for Rother Valley and one of seven “red wall” Tories who have previously warned about Camelot’s business model, said it was “time to get someone in who can run the national lottery properly and who can be more true to its founding values”.

He said: “People trust the national lottery as a brand and want to get behind its charitable mission statement. But these controversial instant win games are herding people towards a more dangerous form of gambling, putting vulnerable people at risk.”

Camelot’s annual report, released in June, hailed the growth in app-based sales due to a new home screen “with personalisation, leveraging machine learning to serve more relevant games to players based on their play behaviour”, noting also “increased traffic to the digital channels due to Covid-19”.

Carolyn Harris, the Labour MP who chairs the all-party group on gambling-related harms, said ministers should intervene to change Camelot’s approach.

She said: “This beggars belief, particularly in a year when many people have struggled and charities are crying out for funding. That so little money from the lottery is going to charity is sickening and the government must see to it that this cannot happen again.”

A Camelot spokesperson said app-based games had existed since 2015, with sales growing in line with wider trends, and that app-based gaming had increased generally amid the pandemic restrictions, given that fewer people went to shops.

They said: “By giving people a choice of safe and enjoyable games that they want to play, by making those games attractive and generous to players, and by enabling people to play in ways that suit them best, we’re generating record monetary returns to good causes from ticket sales, record prize money to players and record payments in lottery duty to the Treasury – all in a responsible way.”

The Gambling Commission, which regulates the lottery, argues that app-based games need a higher return of prizes than draws to attract players, and that it was more important that the overall sum given to good causes was increasing. It says it is satisfied that Camelot’s games are comparatively low risk.

The Canadian-owned Camelot faces competition from three other would-be lottery operators to take over the licence from 2023: the Czech-owned Sazka Group, which runs lotteries in its home country as well as Greece, Italy and Austria; the former Daily Express owner Richard Desmond; and Sisal, which has operations in its native Italy as well as Spain, Morocco and Turkey.

Business

Nigeria oil production drops to 1.231m barrels per day- OPEC

OPEC: Russia-Ukraine war causing volatility in global energy market

Nigeria’s crude oil production suffered its second consecutive monthly decline since the beginning of this year, as it dropped to 1.231 million barrels per day in March, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries has revealed.

OPEC disclosed this in its latest Monthly Oil Market Report for April 2024, stating that crude oil production details which it got through direct communication from Nigeria showed that the country pumped less oil in March compared to February.

Data from the report indicated that Nigeria produced 1.322 million barrels per day of crude in February this year, but this dropped to 1.231mbpd in March, representing a plunge of 91mbpd.

The report further added that the country had produced 1.427mbpd of crude in January, but this was not sustained in February as it dropped in that month, while the southward oil production continued in March.

However, OPEC data showed that Nigeria’s average crude oil production in the first quarter of 2024 was 1.327mbpd, higher than the 1.313mbpd average oil production in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Nigeria’s first quarter oil output in 2024 was also higher than the 1.201mbpd average production in the third quarter of 2023.

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Emirates Airlines to resume Nigeria flights soon – Keyamo

Emirates, UAE, has concluded plans to resume flights with Nigeria.

This followed numerous visits from President Bola Tinubu to UAE over the communication breakdown between both countries.

Featuring on Arise Television on Monday, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, said the Emirates Airline had already indicated its readiness in a letter sent to the Nigerian Government.

Keyamo explained that what transpired during the earlier visit and resolution was not fake but was presented in a ‘hasty’ manner.

He said: “Emirates flight resumption is almost happening. I just received a letter from Emirates. The letter is on my phone now. They have gone through all the gamut and they are ready to come back. They will announce the date because to restart a route, they must get an aircraft for that route.

“I am announcing to Nigerians for the first time; that I just received a letter from Emirates now. The letter is with me. I have a hard copy thanking you for all the efforts we made. Mr President was the showman here. He was the one who pushed for it. He made my job easy because he went there, and had a diplomatic shuttle to resolve all the issues.

“That was why I said the last announcement was hasty and not fake news.

“They will announce the date for their next flight. We have received a letter confirming that all the issues have been resolved and prepared to start coming back. It may be before June.”

Apart from Emirates suspending flights to Nigeria, in 2022, the UAE Immigration Department notified its trade partners and travel agencies that it was stopping visa applications from 22 countries, 20 of which are African nations.

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Business

CICB records 63% revenue growth in 2023

The Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, CIBN, says it recorded a 63.60 per cent growth of operating revenue, which stood at N1.37 billion in 2023, marking a significant increase from the N837.94 million recorded in 2022.

CIBN’s president, Ken Opara, disclosed this on Saturday in Lagos.

Opara added that the cost-to-income ratio for the year ended December 31, 2023, stood at 50.72 per cent, down from 59.41 per cent in the corresponding period in 2022.

“I am particularly delighted that our institute continued to wax stronger financially, notwithstanding the economic downturns and headwinds in 2023.

“It is on record that our institute, for the first time, crossed the one billion Naira mark by achieving a Net Operating Surplus of N1.371 billion in 2023 when compared with N837.943 million achieved in 2022, representing a growth of 63.60 per cent.

“Similarly, total revenue grew from N2.065 billion recorded in 2022 to N2.782 billion in 2023, representing 34.72 per cent growth, while total assets grew from N7.821 billion in 2022 to N9.119 billion in 2023.

“The cost-to-income ratio for the year ended December 31, 2023, stood at 50.72 per cent, down from 59.41 per cent in the corresponding period in 2022. This ratio is way below the approved Governing Council threshold of 61 per cent for the 2023 financial year.

“I am persuaded that with prudent and efficient management of resources, as well as diligent execution of our strategic plan, our institute will sustain this northward trajectory,” he said.

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