Hard done by or sore losers?
We’ll find out in the months ahead as the Camelot Group, stripped off the National Lottery licence after a near 30-year monopoly, has revealed plans to take the UK Gambling Commission to court.
The regulator had previously revealed that Allwyn was their preferred bidder after they won a points-scoring exercise conducted by Commission officials. However, Camelot have queried the fairness of the methods used, and their CEO – Nigel Railton – has confirmed that they will seek answers in the High Court.
“We are launching a legal challenge today in our capacity as an applicant for the fourth licence because we firmly believe that the Gambling Commission has got this decision badly wrong,” he said.
“When we received the result, we were shocked by aspects of the decision. Despite lengthy correspondence, the Commission has failed to provide a satisfactory response. We are therefore left with no choice but to ask the court to establish what happened.
“More than 1,000 Camelot employees work tirelessly to successfully operate The National Lottery under the current licence and, at the very least, they are owed a proper explanation.”
The Commission has replied by describing Camelot’s decision to launch legal proceedings as regrettable, and reiterated their view that they had carried out a ‘fair and robust’ competition.
“We have taken every step possible to ensure a level playing field for all interested parties, to enable us to appoint a licensee who will engage and protect players, run the National Lottery with integrity and ensure the National Lottery continues to support good causes and their contribution to society,” a company spokesperson commented.
“The competition and our evaluation have been carried out fairly and lawfully in accordance with our statutory duties, and we are confident that a court would come to that conclusion.”
All In with Allwyn
Camelot have held the National Lottery since the main draw was launched way back in 1994.
They have survived a number of ‘takeover’ bids in the past, and have twice won through the bidding process to retain their licence for the best part of three decades.
As well as creating an estimated 6,300 millionaires, the National Lottery draws have contributed more than £45 billion to thousands of good causes across the UK, with individuals, local communities and businesses all benefitting from some of the money raised.
However, one of the accusations levelled at Camelot is that their percentage contribution towards charitable causes has not increased in proportion with their own profitability – a 2% gain for charities came in-line with a mind-boggling 122% rise in profits for the firm. That is thought to be one of the reasons why the Commission has decided to go in a different direction with their preferred operator.
With interest in the lottery draws also dwindling, the regulator has perhaps seen how Allwyn has revitalised competitions in Europe – and noted their commitment to slashing the price of a ticket in half to the old £1 mark.
Allwyn were selected ahead of Camelot and the other two applicants – Sisal and The New Lottery Company, and have plenty of experience running draws in Italy, Greece and Austria.
They have also found success in the Czech Republic, where owner Karel Komarek is from. He has convinced Commission officials that a gas production facility he has invested in has no ties to Gazprom or any other Russian companies or individuals that have been sanctioned in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine.
Happily, Allwyn have also promised Camelot’s 1,000 strong workforce a job running the National Lottery from 2024 onwards should they choose to take it.
Whether the High Court decides to rule in favour of Camelot’s legal opposition remains to be seen, but government ministers – who will have the last say on who is granted the licence – seem to have made their minds up already.
Julian Knight, the chair of the culture committee in the House of Commons, said: “Camelot has had this now over two decades and done a pretty good job in the main, but there were some real concerns during the last lottery licence that they veered toward games that didn’t return as much to good causes.”