Europe and the Middle East

The UK National Lottery

The United Kingdom has a long tradition of both charitable fundraising and a strong betting culture. It is therefore unsurprising that the UK national lottery, operated by Camelot, successfully raised and distributed a staggering USD 3.2 billion to various good causes during the 2019 financial year.

In the UK, charitable organizations proliferate, focusing sometimes on highly niche projects. As a result, the breadth of Camelot’s contributions to good causes spans multiple sectors, including health, sports, arts, heritage, education, environment, and social causes.

Case Study: Haircuts4Homeless

Around one in 200 people in the UK are homeless, according to The Big Issue’s February 2021 edition. Among the many challenges facing the homeless is access to personal care and grooming. This can have knock-on effects that include difficulty finding work, loss of dignity, and risk of illness.

Haircuts4Homeless is one of the more than 200 projects combatting homelessness and its effects that are funded by the lottery. This organization, founded by a hairdresser, has created a network of volunteer hairdressers around the UK to provide free haircuts for those living with homelessness. Funding helps provide recruitment and training of volunteers.

Noteworthy achievements

Camelot raises over GBP 30 million each week for money to good causes, making it one of the world’s largest lottery contributors to social welfare. Since inception, it has raised over GBP 41 billion and paid out over 600,000 individual donations. Besides raising money for charity through sales of lottery games, Camelot also encourages its employees to participate in volunteer schemes. Each employee is entitled to two days’ volunteering per year, or more if it is linked to their personal development Employees are furthermore encouraged to work with one of the lottery’s charity partners, including The Prince’s Trust, The Silver Line, TCV: The Conservation Volunteers, and Media Trust.

Case study: The Prince’s Trust

A major charitable partner of the lottery, the Prince’s Trust is an organization aimed at uplifting people between the ages of 11 and 30. The trust offers free courses, grants and mentoring to provide young people with the skills and learning to pursue a career. The courses offered by the Prince’s Trust cover three major age-specific areas:

Build Your Confidence focuses on helping young people between ages 16 and 25 to develop their confidence, teamwork skills and more through community projects and residential adventure experiences.

Get a Job offers courses to teach young people aged 16-30 to improve their CVs and interview techniques, and puts them in touch with top employers to help find them work.

Start Your Business courses are offered to youth aged 18-30 and provides them with the knowledge needed to successfully start a new business.

Overview of organizations involved

There are four discrete pillars to lottery governance in the UK. Under the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, The National Lottery etc. Act 1993 legislates lottery activities.

The UK Gambling Commission, under direction from the Act, is responsible for licensing and regulation over the national lottery. Camelot UK Lotteries Limited (Camelot) is the operator currently licensed to run the UK national lottery, and the sole operator to date.

Distribution of funds to good causes is not handled by Camelot or the UK Gambling Commission. Instead, there are twelve distribution bodies responsible for disbursement.

Distributing money to good causes

Camelot contributes approximately two-thirds of its money to good causes in the arts, charities, education, environment, health, heritage, sports and voluntary sectors. The remaining approximately one-third goes to treasury, for use by the government in social upliftment initiatives. In 2019, the total money distributed to good causes and treasury equaled USD 3.214 billion.

Any registered charity domiciled within the United Kingdom and which falls under a relevant category can apply for lottery funding. Due to a concentrated focus on community-based projects, around 70% of the lottery’s funding goes to grants for under GBP 10,000.

Lottery funding for good causes is distributed across the following sectors as follows.

Health, education, environment and charitable causes

As the sector that covers the broadest base of good causes, this sector receives fully 40% of lottery funding. The projects under this umbrella range widely, including those devotes to homelessness, community health and welfare, childhood and adult education and various others.


Sports development and support receive 20% of UK lottery charitable funding. These projects necessarily revolve around sports, but can include assistance at various levels of sport. Among the recipients of such funding is the UK’s national Olympic committee.


Twenty percent of lottery good causes money goes to funding various projects in the arts. These can cover performing arts, music, community development through art, etc.


As a country with a long cultural heritage, there are many sites, regions, buildings, artworks, and so forth that form part of the UK’s cultural identity. Funds to support the preservation of the UK’s national heritage make up 20% of lottery charitable funding.

About Camelot, The UK Gambling Commission, and the distribution bodies

The UK National Lottery is operated by Camelot UK Lotteries Limited, under license to the UK Gambling Commission, whose objectives are to preserve the integrity of the Lottery, protect players and maximize returns to Good Causes. Camelot is a privately owned organization that designs games and sells tickets to raise money for Good Causes, although it has no influence over the distribution of charitable funds.

Camelot is subject to the laws of the United Kingdom, as well as the mandates received from the Gambling Commission. The lottery was initially licensed in 1994 and, following various renewals, is currently under an extended license set to run until 2023.

Governed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, The National Lottery etc. Act 1993 governs the operation and regulation of The National Lottery, and sets out National Lottery policy. In addition, there are 12 distribution bodies that select which projects National Lottery funding will go to.