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Find Out About the Companies Bidding to Run the National Lottery

Last Updated: Wednesday 19th February 2020, 09:01

The licence to run the National Lottery is up for renewal and a number of high-profile bidders have already put their names forward to take it on. Camelot has operated the National Lottery since its launch in 1994, winning new contracts in 2001 and 2007, but the current licensee faces some stiff competition during this tender process from a number of other parties.

The UK National Lottery is the sixth biggest in the world by sales, which makes it a valuable prize for operators, which is why there is such interest in where the licence will go. It is also one of the most profitable contracts awarded by the UK Government and generates a gross yield of about £3bn each year. 

CEO of the UK Gambling Commission, Neil McArthur, has previously said there was “significant untapped potential” in the franchise, and that he hoped to see technology giants compete for the contract.

However, there have been delays to the competition for the licence, which has prompted complaints from the other potential bidders who claim any hold-up could favour Camelot. They fear the Gambling Commission will be more risk averse to awarding the licence to a new entrant because the transition period will be shortened, which will also cost a huge amount of extra money to the new operator when having to switch the operations.
 
Some of the groups that have expressed an interest in bidding for the next licence, which is set to be awarded in February 2021, include Richard Desmond and his Northern & Shell business, which runs the Health Lottery, Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, and Sazka Group, which runs lotteries in the Czech Republic, Austria and Greece. The National Lottery would begin operations under the new licensee in 2023.

Here’s a rundown of the parties that have expressed an interest in bidding for the National Lottery license:

Camelot

Camelot has become synonymous with the National Lottery, as it has held the license to operate it since its launch in 1994. The National Lottery has undergone many changes under Camelot’s tenure, and over £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the last 25 years. Camelot faced criticism in 2019, however, after the amount of money going to good causes dropped despite an increase in the money from ticket sales, so the current license holder may not be the clear-cut favourite to win the license upon its renewal. 

Northern & Shell 

The owner of Northern & Shell, Richard Desmond, has argued that after 25 years under Camelot’s control, it was “time for a change” to the National Lottery’s management. Northern & Shell, which previously owned a number of national newspapers, such as the Daily Express and Daily Star, can also point to having run the Health Lottery since 2011 and being the only provider, other than Camelot, to have a national retail presence in the UK. 

Sazka Group
 

Sazka Group is a Czech gambling conglomerate owned by billionaire Karel Komarek. Founded in 2016, it has risen to become one of Europe’s biggest lottery operators and runs many national and multi-national games. In 2018, almost 80 million players placed more than £14 billion of bets across the group’s lotteries and other sports betting brands.

In a statement Sazka Group argues that it has a proven track record in taking on established lotteries and making them better, which would position it well for any potential bid for the UK’s National Lottery.

Richard Branson 
 
UK billionaire and founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, is set to bid for the licence to run the National Lottery for the third time, having previously failed to win it in 1994 and 2001. Pointing to Camelot’s parent company – the Canadian-based Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan – Branson believes that foreign ownership makes for an inefficient operation. 

He also claims that millions in profit that should have gone to charities in the UK has instead gone towards Canadian teachers’ pensions. Branson says his ‘People’s Lottery’ is the way forward, with a non-profit structure that would help to keep money in the UK.

Tabcorp (withdrew from bidding)

Tabcorp is Australia’s biggest gaming company and is the operator of lotteries in all but one of the country’s states. The scale of Tabcorp’s current lottery brands suggested it may have been a good fit for the National Lottery but the company withdrew as a prospective bidder early in the process. 

Tabcorp has experience in the UK gaming industry after it launched the online betting service Sun Bets in 2016, but the company withdrew two years later. The chief executive of Tabcorp, David Attenborough, said in 2018 that the company would still consider other international businesses.

People’s Postcode Lottery / Novamedia (withdrew from bidding)

The People’s Postcode Lottery, which is operated by Dutch firm Novamedia, is one of the UK’s biggest lottery brands. Like the Health Lottery, it brings multiple smaller society lotteries from different charities under one banner. It too expressed an interest in bidding for the National Lottery license but withdrew early in the process.

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