In Focus

National Lottery operating licence: and the winner is… 

Camelot has ‘outlasted five prime ministers’, but following a hotly contested bidding process, it has finally been toppled

During its 28-year tenure as operator of the National Lottery, Camelot has “outlasted five prime ministers”, and fought off challenges from the likes of Sir Richard Branson, to retain the lucrative government gig, said Rob Davies in The Guardian – but following a hotly contested bidding process, it has finally been toppled. The Gambling Commission has named Allwyn as its “preferred applicant” to run the ten-year franchise from 2024. The company is part of Czech billionaire Karel Komárek’s KKCG empire, which has prompted some anxiety, given the group’s links with the Kremlin-owned energy company Gazprom. 

Komarek, 53, has pledged to dissolve the KKCG/Gazprom partnership. Even so, his prize may not be in the bag, said Oliver Gill in The Daily Telegraph. Camelot is contemplating challenging the surprise decision in the High Court, potentially lifting the lid on a bidding process shrouded in secrecy. Allwyn, which runs lotteries across Europe, apparently impressed with “a vow to launch a digital investment spree”, halve the price of tickets, and double the amount the Lottery generates for good causes. It also assembled a roster of supportive British business luminaries – including the Air Miles inventor Sir Keith Mills, who worked closely with the then London mayor, Boris Johnson, on the 2012 Olympics. 

The UK hosts the world’s fourth largest lottery, which generated over $10bn in revenues in 2020, said Lex in the FT. Hence the interest from a variety of applicants including the Italian operator Sisal, which was recently bought by the FTSE 100 gambling giant Flutter. Losing this deal could be fatal for Camelot, but it may yet prevail in the courts. Certainly, “its chances of success are higher than the odds of 45 million to one that stand in the way of a UK jackpot win”.

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