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National Lottery firm notches up record first half despite falling shop sales

Outgoing National Lottery operator Camelot has revealed its highest half-year sales as soaring numbers of players online offset falling in-store ticket and scratchcard demand amid “difficult” trading on the high street.

The group – which earlier this year lost out on the lottery’s next licence after running the game since 1994 – reported overall sales up 2.6% to £4.1 billion for the six months to September 24.

It put the milestone performance down to a 13% jump in online sales, with mobile phone play up 19% to an all-time high of £1.4 billion and as players signed up for a series of huge EuroMillions rollover draws in the spring and summer.

More than 15,000 players a minute signed into the National Lottery app and website ahead of the £184 million jackpot draw in May.

But in-store ticket sales fell 4.7% to £2.2 billion, with Camelot saying its retail partners were hit by “ongoing difficult conditions”, with fewer shoppers visiting shops and preferring to do bigger shops less often.

This led to a 3.7% fall in scratchcard and instant win game sales to £1.7 billion, with in-store scratchcards particularly impacted.

Camelot said: “Despite this, retail remains the largest National Lottery sales channel and Camelot remains committed to doing everything it can to help its in-store partners, particularly independent outlets which make up the majority of its 44,500-strong retail footprint.”

The overall sales success allowed Camelot to deliver its best half-year returns for good causes, up 8.1% to £956.5 million.

The figures come days after rival Allwyn – the group awarded the contract to run the lottery licence from 2024 – announced a deal to buy Camelot from the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan in a move that will end legal wrangling over the decision to hand over the licence and ease the handover.

Allwyn is hoping to close the deal early next year, subject to approval by the UK Gambling Commission, and is paying around £100 million, according to reports.

But the latest sales results also come amid pressure from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport Committee for Allwyn to do more to protect players from gambling harm while “restoring the link” between buying a ticket and supporting worthy causes.

The committee of MPs called for Allwyn to make a greater financial commitment to the GambleAware charity to support those at risk of harm from gambling, while Lottery products should signpost support services.

Camelot chief executive Nigel Railton said the first-half results “demonstrate our ability to adapt quickly and decisively to fast-changing and challenging economic conditions, while maintaining our longstanding reputation for selling tickets in a socially responsible way – attributes that have helped to keep The National Lottery in excellent health at such an important time for the UK”.

In March, the regulator announced it will hand the next five-year licence to Allwyn from February 2024, ditching Camelot after 30 years.

Camelot launched legal proceedings challenging the decision a month later, claiming the Gambling Commission got the decision “badly wrong”.

The commission asked the High Court to overturn the automatic stay-put order on the handover due to the legal case, warning of the disruption it could cause to the lottery.

In late June, the court agreed to lift the suspension preventing it from beginning the licence transfer, but this was then appealed by Camelot.

However, Camelot later confirmed it was dropping its action.

Allwyn, previously known as Sazka, runs lotteries in Austria, Italy and Greece and plans to cut the cost of UK tickets from £2 to £1.