After a historic first tender and two renewals, Camelot will be handing the reins of the UK National Lottery to a business whose bid was headed up by Sir Keith Mills.
Allwyn, the new name and the UK arm of Czech billionaire Karel Komárek’s Sazka Group – a premier operator of lotteries in Czechia, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, and Austria has been named by the Gambling Commission as the preferred applicant.
Should the deal be consummated, February 2024 will mark the first time in the National Lottery’s nearly three decades of service that Camelot will not run the business of accepting bets, drawing numbers, paying winners, and contributing to society with the proceeds.
The competition to become a new UK institution included Camelot, Allwyn, Sisal of Italy (Flutter), and Health Lottery operator Richard Desmond’s vehicle, Northern & Shell. None of the contenders came to the process without some controversy.
Some analysts noted an ace up the sleeve with the participation, at least to put together a win, of Sir Keith Mills. The innovator and iron-striker, primarily responsible for the origination of Air Miles and the Sainsbury Nectar card surrounded himself on his board of advisors with the CEO of Sainsbury Justin King as well as Brent Hoberman a highly accomplished venture capitalist. Adding to the local flavor, loaded up for the win was Vodaphone who contributed technology.
Overwhelming Talent Came to Bear
If “local”, and “winner” matter in such competitions, simply adding Sir Mills’ success in bringing the Olympics to London and organizing the 2012 Games could have made Allwyn a shoo-in.
The Gambling Commission’s Andrew Rhodes reflected on the contenders as well as the process when he said: “Our priority was to run a competition that would attract a strong field of candidates. Having received the most applications since 1994, it is clear that we’ve achieved just that.
“I am confident that the success of the competition will lead to a highly successful fourth license – one that maximizes returns to good causes promotes innovation, delivers against our statutory duties, and which ultimately protects the unique status of the National Lottery.”
After more than two decades in the business, Camelot had become a national institution. This, in the end, may have been a part of why they were unable to provide fresh air and, indeed, fresh cash to invigorate their offer to take on the responsibility of a fourth license.
Camelot Thanks 1,000-plus Employees
Nigel Railton of Camelot said: “I’m incredibly disappointed by today’s announcement, but we still have a critical job to do, as our current license runs until February 2024. We’re now carefully reviewing the Gambling Commission’s evaluation before deciding on our next steps.
“I’m enormously grateful to our 1,000-plus employees who have been unwavering in delivering record-breaking results during the current license.”
For all of its star-studded cast of characters and perfect execution of the bid, Allwyn is, at its core, rags to riches as a story. And while Karel Komárek may, in time, need to divest certain interests, he is still seen by many as the epitome of an entrepreneur having turned a £10,000 loan from his father into a fortune of more than £6bn with interests in oil and gas, property, technology, and lotteries.
As for any interests he may need to divest in, according to the Guardian, Komárek reacted quickly, condemning Vladimir Putin’s “barbarism” in an open letter. He is now in talks with the Czech government to nationalize the asset and force Gazprom out.
Source: Allwyn to replace Camelot as UK National Lottery operator, iGaming Business, March 15, 2022