The managing director of the National Lottery has warned of the "very serious threat" posed by Richard Desmond's controversial Health Lottery to Team GB's chances of gold medal success at the Rio Olympics by depriving them of more than £100m in funding.
Andy Duncan told The Independent that the Health Lottery is undermining National Lottery sales and has created a precedent which could reduce by a third the funding for elite sports stars.
"At its heart, the Health Lottery is a very serious threat to National Lottery funds for good causes – that's both the Health Lottery itself and the precedent it sets," he said.
The National Lottery contributed £183m to elite sports for London 2012. Nine in 10 Team GB competitors have benefited from funding derived from ticket sales. But Mr Duncan said that if the National Lottery had been exposed earlier to the competition, British competitors would have had up to £60m less. Camelot estimates that if the lottery sector is thrown open, its contribution to elite sport could fall by £110m in the next four years.
The claims come as David Cameron is set to announce details of an increased contribution to elite sports from the National Lottery. Mr Duncan says it will be increasingly difficult to leverage that funding in ticket sales. He said the Health Lottery was costing the National Lottery £1m a week in sales and reducing contributions to good causes by £20m a year.
Camelot, which runs the National Lottery, is challenging the legality of the Health Lottery's licence, awarded by the Gambling Commission, in the courts.
"We are very clear that we think it's illegal, that it's broken not just the spirit of the law but the letter of the law," said Mr Duncan.
Mr Desmond's venture donates the minimum 20.3p in the pound to good causes, compared with Camelot's 28p. His media company, Northern & Shell, which launched the Health Lottery, disputes Camelot's claim that its lottery has been undermined. N&S argues that Camelot is making healthy profits and that the Health Lottery has "reinvigorated" the National Lottery.
It says that a report commissioned by the Department of Culture Media and Sport and the Gambling Commission concluded: "There is no clear evidence that the Health Lottery has taken very significant revenues from the National Lottery or that it poses a threat to the existing society lotteries. It is likely, therefore, to have increased the total amount of money raised by lotteries for good causes."
Without the support of the Health Lottery, which has so far contributed £22m to good causes, several health charities would face an uncertain future, N&S says.