Blood may be thicker than water, but it can also put you in quite an unpleasant position. Nobody knows this better than John Whittingdale, UK minister in charge of gambling and lottery. According to The Times, his daughter, Alice Whittingdale, works for the lobbying firm and PR company Pagefield. So, where’s the problem? Well, Mr. Whittingdale is employed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, the same Department that oversees the gambling industry. His daughter works for the company that has been hired by the National Lottery operator Camelot. Oops!
John Whittingdale was appointed in March 2021, when he took over the position from the former sports minister Nigel Huddleston. One of his main roles is the revision of the 2005 Gambling law. He is also in charge of overseeing the Gambling Commission, the body in charge of providing all sorts of gambling licenses, including the lottery ones. Currently, the Commission is running bidding for the next National Lottery license. Well, we have to say we can see where this entire thing is going.
In the register of members’ interests, the minister stated his daughter is employed as a researcher. However, the company’s website claims something different. Apparently, Alicia Whittingdale is a senior executive. She did join the company as a researcher back in 2018 but has since progressed in her career. The main reason why this entire story made the headlines is that there are three contenders for the National Lottery license: Allwyn (SAZKA Group), Sisal (an Italian company), and… Camelot!
This is not the only connection Camelot has with politics. Matt Zarb-Cousin, the spokesperson for Clean Up Gambling, reminded The Times of another case. The former gambling minister Hugh Robertson is the chairman of Camelot. Robertson was a member of Parliament from 2001 to 2015, and even received the honor of knighthood for his contribution during the London Olympics in 2012. Zarb-Cousin is not impressed, and questions the fairness of the entire National Lottery licensing process. He also says Camelot's performance must be properly inspected, and the public informed about what the other two companies have to offer.
The entire licensing process was postponed earlier this month. The license would grant nationwide lottery services to one company until February 2022. Camelot’s license has been extended for additional 6 months, to February 2024. The same license has already been prolonged due to the global pandemic. And what do the other parties in this story have to say? The other two bidding companies haven’t made any comments. The UK Gambling Commission explained it is running the tender on its own, without any interference by the Department. Pagefield, the company Alicia Whittingdale works for, stated she has and never had any involvement with the Camelot account.