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Digital drives UK National Lottery sales to record £8.37bn in 2020-21

| By Robert Fletcher
Camelot UK Lotteries has revealed that sales of the National Lottery amounted to a record £8.37bn (€9.70bn/$11.80bn) in the 12 months to 31 March 2020, despite the impact of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Sales were £468.8m higher than in the previous year, primarily due to record digital sales of £3.51bn, up 42.8% year-on-year.

Camelot put the spike in digital sales down the impact of the pandemic on retail sales, with non-essential retail having been closed for large parts of the period and consumer advised to only visit shops when absolutely necessary.

Camelot also noted how its board in March 2020 approved an accelerated investment plan for the digital channel to ensure additional traffic could be accommodated, which it said helped ensure the National Lottery was able to serve a record number of players online. 

In terms of mobile, sales across the National Lottery’s mobile products increased £876.4m to reach an all-time high of £2.48bn, with the majority of these sales via the National Lottery’s apps. 

However, it was a different picture for retail, where in-store sales were down 10.7% to £4.86bn as more players stayed at home and played via the National Lottery’s mobile and online platforms instead.

Camelot noted that more than 90% of its 44,000 retail partners continued to trade through the lockdown periods, adding that while retail sales were down 18.9% at the half-year stage, sales recovered strongly in the second half. Since the year-end, Camelot said retail sales have recovered to near pre-pandemic trading levels.

Commission paid to retailers was £275.9m, the equivalent of around £6,200 per store. 

Looking at what games consumers were playing, sales of the National Lottery’s six draw-based games climbed £153.6m year-on-year to £4.69bn. Camelot said this was mainly due to a new feature added to its Lotto game in November, whereby players win an additional cash prize of £5 for matching two main numbers in a ‘Must Be Won’ Rolldown draw. 

Camelot added that Set For Life, the National Lottery’s newest game, continue to exceed expectations, while EuroMillions grew marginally despite depressed ticket sales in some partner countries. 

Sales of instants were up to £3.68bn, though Camelot said a rise online instant games sales was offset by a decline in scratchcard sales, which were down due to lower retail footfall, particularly in the first half. 

Camelot paid out a record £4.85bn in prizes to players during the period, £349.7m more than in 2019-20, creating 389 new millionaires in the process, while £1.89n was generated for Good Causes.

“In what has been an extraordinarily challenging year, the National Lottery demonstrated incredible resilience and flexibility to achieve this record performance,” Camelot chief executive Nigel Railton said. “These results are a culmination of all of the work we’ve done over the last few years in the areas of brand, games, retail and digital. 

“This, together with our years of experience and longstanding commitment to being a world leader in healthy play, have helped us ensure this vital boon for society when it’s been needed most. And it’s these strengths that mean that we will continue to deliver for the benefit of everyone.”

Camelot could soon step aside as operator of the National Lottery, with the British Gambling Commission having launched a tender for the fourth National Lottery licence last August.

Pan-European lottery and gaming giant Sazka Group announced its intention to bid in October last year, while Italian lottery operator Sisal and India’s Sugal & Damani have also declared an interest.

Camelot completed the Gambling Commission’s Selection Questionnaire, but has not yet announced if it is bidding for the tender.

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