Camelot has pledged to waive operating fees and not to ‘sanction’ independent retailers switching off or restricting National Lottery terminals and scratchcard sales over coronavirus concerns.

The Co-op, Morrisons and McColl’s are all reported to have stopped paying out lottery prizes. A sign by the Co-op introduced in stores also announced the removal of scratchcards from sale and limiting customers to one Lucky Dip ticket purchase. Camelot confirmed that its sales had been hit by the coronavirus crisis. Other multiples are under pressure to follow suit, with more than 75 staff members and customers messaging The National Lottery and supermarket chains calling for restrictions.

Retailers and staff had expressed concern over the number of customers making non-essential journeys just to purchase or check lottery tickets. One newsagent shared sales data showing one in 20 transactions was a standalone lottery purchase. A further one in 20 were just for a lottery product and a newspaper. The shop owner commented: “By stopping its services, Camelot could prevent hundreds of thousands of needless journeys and save people’s lives.”

Retailers shared examples with betterRetailing of where they say they had struggled to get “a clear answer” from the lottery operator on whether sanctions would be imposed on those who restricted their lottery offering. When challenged by betterRetailing, a Camelot spokesperson clarified:

 “To be absolutely clear, we will not be imposing sanctions on any National Lottery retailers who have decided to temporarily close their stores because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, we will not penalise any National Lottery retailers who have decided to keep their stores open but have temporarily stopped selling National Lottery products and paying prizes, and have therefore switched off their lottery terminals. Their National Lottery Retailer Agreements will not be affected by their decision. In the case of retailers with Compact Lottery Terminals whose businesses are affected by COVID-19, we will waive their monthly operating fee for April and, and for those who were also impacted in March, we will issue a credit for that month.”

Read more: Camelot restricts EuroMillions advanced sales in response to coronavirus impact abroad

The company asked retailers switching off terminals or shutting shop to call 0800 8 40 50 60 “so that we can record their decision and talk through their individual circumstances.”

Atul Sodha of Londis Peverills in Uxbridge said he would continue providing lottery services, but said the measures by multiple were creating challenges for independent stores. “The Co-op has shown real leadership in protecting staff and customers throughout the crisis, but this decision to limit Lottery services is having the opposite effect. We have been inundated with people with Co-op groceries just coming in for scratch cards or lottery tickets, essentially doubling their shop visits. I’ve had to have difficult conversations with customers coming in several times a day just to purchase scratch cards, but that shouldn’t have to be the retailer’s responsibility or at their discretion.”

Sodha urged Camelot to develop uniform policy for ticket and scratch card sales that encourages consumers to follow Government guidance and keeps stores safe. He said this would support stores and give more continuity for customers when visiting different retail sites across the National Lottery network.

A spokesperson for the lottery giant responded that it was encouraging as many players as possible to check tickets, play online and only purchase as part of an essential shop. They also said: “It’s up to individual retailers to decide what they stock and choose to sell to individual shoppers over the counter – be that National Lottery tickets, tobacco, alcohol or some other product – and we will respect whatever decisions retailers make about selling National Lottery products.”

To help stores, Camelot issued also guidance on “safe ways to play National Lottery games and claim prizes in retail.” This included suggesting customers purchase a Lucky Dip, manually entering player’s numbers in the terminal keypad and asking players to check results online.

Other retailers confirmed they supported continuing to provide lottery services as normal. “I think many business that do feel it is safe to stay open will feel they have a duty of care to continue to offer customers a full range of services,” said Ralph Patel, owner of the Look In, in Woodmansterne, Surrey. However, he added “staff and customer welfare must come first and it should be up to each store to decide which services they can safely continue to provide.”

Camelot also said that its funding for good causes “has never been more crucial than it is now,” with £350m pledged to support community organisations respond to pressures caused by the coronavirus. A spokesperson said this was “thanks to National Lottery players and retailers who sell tickets.”

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