Post-pandemic retail dip hits UK National Lottery sales

| By Richard Mulligan
The UK’s National Lottery felt the impact of a post-pandemic retail footfall decline and the cost-of-living crisis as it recorded a fall in ticket sales during the 2021/22.

In its results for the year to 31 March 2022, operator Camelot – which is pursuing legal action against the Gambling Commission after it lost the rights to operate the National Lottery from 2024 to Allwyn – said £8.09bn of sales were made, which was down 2.5% from the £8.3bn generated in the prior year. However, 2021/22 was only the second time that sales figures have broken the £8bn mark.

Making up almost 60% of sales, retail remains the largest National Lottery sales channel, however this was down year-on-year due to ongoing challenges caused by the pandemic in the early part of the year affecting both footfall and shopper frequency and, more latterly, the cost-of-living crisis. Camelot achieved in-store sales of £4.67bn in 2021/22 – down from £4.86bn in 2020/21.

Despite having a record number of people playing online in 2021/22, this year’s digital sales of £3.42bn were £93.0m lower than last year. Camelot said players spent less due to greater consumer choice post lockdown, and also due to the introduction of lower online play and wallet limits for potentially at-risk players.

However, Camelot said it saw strong retention of players who had migrated from retail as a result of the pandemic. It added 1.8 million new player registrations over the year, which takes its digital player base to a record 10.1m active players.

Some 72% of all digital sales were made via mobile, accounting for a total of £2.45bn. Much of this was driven by growth on The National Lottery’s apps, with sales increasing by £93.5m to an all-time high of £1.69bn.

Despite fewer large EuroMillions rollovers – with 15 draws with a jackpot of over £100m in 2021/22 compared with 22 the year before – Camelot still achieved draw-based game sales of £4.65bn, a slight dip of £43.2m.

Camelot said the majority of sales decline for the year is attributable to a decrease in sales of National Lottery Instants, down £240.0m year-on-year to £3.44bn. It said this was largely down to greater competition for people’s attention and spend after the lifting of Covid restrictions, followed by growing economic uncertainty over the latter part of the year.

Over the course of the year, National Lottery players won £4.61bn in prizes, down from a record £4.85bn in 2020/21.

Including unclaimed prizes, £1.91bn was generated for Good Causes over the period – an increase of £24.3m on last year. This makes it the second best-ever total raised for Good Causes – second only to 2012/13 during London 2012 and when there were significantly more unclaimed prizes – and only the third time in The National Lottery’s history that the Good Causes money generated has exceeded £1.9bn.

Camelot chief executive Nigel Railton said: “Achieving National Lottery sales of over £8bn two years in a row while maintaining very high levels of public participation – despite the challenging and changing external environment – proves that our strategy of offering great consumer choice in a safe and convenient way continues to be hugely successful.

“It’s also testament to the resilient, innovative and responsive business model that we’ve put in place over the last few years.

“In particular, our ongoing investment in The National Lottery brand – which this year saw us carry out an unmissable campaign to celebrate National Lottery players’ contribution to Tokyo 2020, as well as support a number of great money-saving promotions for National Lottery players as Covid restrictions eased – and our innovation in the flagship Lotto game continued to pay off.

“Generating record returns to Good Causes from ticket sales for the second year running is an outstanding achievement – and is fantastic news for people, projects and communities across the UK at a time when funding has never been more needed.”

The Gambling Commission announced in March that it had selected Allwyn – formerly The Sazka Group – to run the Lottery from 2024, replacing Camelot which has been its sole operator since it was launched in 1994. Camelot issued a legal challenge in the High Court within weeks over the regulator’s decision.

Railton said at the time: “We are launching a legal challenge today in our capacity as an applicant for the fourth licence because we firmly believe that the Gambling Commission has got this decision badly wrong. When we received the result, we were shocked by aspects of the decision.”

Subscribe to the iGaming newsletter