After a difficult few years, sales are gradually recovering, with returns to the arts up 23% on the first half of last year.

Photo of National Lottery

Funding for the arts through the National Lottery has continued its gradual recovery after years of turmoil, increasing by just under £30m in the first half of 2018/19 on the equivalent period last year.

Total sales were up 5.4% to £3.5bn, according to the latest figures released by National Lottery operator Camelot, translating into £793.2m for good causes.

A fifth of this is allocated to the UK’s four Arts Councils, meaning they will collectively receive just under £159m – a 23% increase on the £129m lottery funding they received this time last year.

Improved sales

Camelot says the improved sales are the result of introducing new games and demonstrate the value of work carried out following its strategic review in 2017.

Sales of draw-based games were up £39.9m to £1.96bn – a trend which a spokesperson said was supported by a new draw for the Thunderball game and the launch of a new EuroMillions HotPicks game. Scratch cards and online instant win game sales were up £136m to £1.5bn, following the introduction of an Android mobile application.

Camelot CEO Nigel Railton said the organisation will seek to maintain this momentum by focusing on areas identified in the strategic review. “We’ll continue to make improvements across our retail and digital channels, and build on the good headway we’ve made to date in making the National Lottery brand more relevant and visible.

“On top of that, we’ve got some great plans for the second half of the year to ensure that we’re offering a more balanced and appealing range of games that offers something for everyone – starting with exciting changes to Lotto next week to give our players a better winning experience.”

He said he was confident sales would continue to improve, despite challenges presented by economic uncertainty and “unrelenting competition” from “industrial-scale society lotteries”.

Difficulties

In recent years, National Lottery sales have been under consistent pressure, which reached a peak in the summer of 2016 when it was announced that a slump had lost the arts £55m in one year.

Continued poor sales in the first half of 2017/18 – when returns to good causes were down by 4.7% – forced Arts Council England (ACE) to completely overhaul its planned budget for 2018-22. Strategic funding fell from a proposed £125m to £72.2m annually, and the funder announced that its individual artist grant scheme, then known as ‘Grants for the Arts and Culture’, would be renamed ‘National Lottery Project Grants’.

ACE also created a co-ordinated campaign to ‘thank’ the public for playing National Lottery games, and guidance for funded organisations to highlight the role of Lottery money in the creation of artistic projects.

Camelot also found itself at the centre of a parliamentary storm when a report last year found that shareholder profits had risen by 122% between 2009/19 and 2016/17, while returns to good causes were up just 2%. This led Steve Trow, a Labour Councillor and researcher for an influential report on lottery funding, to call for the Government to bring the National Lottery back into public ownership to restore confidence in the game.

Camelot’s current licence to operate the National Lottery expires in 2023, and competition for a new contract will begin in 2019.

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