Richard Desmond, the media impresario who heads Northern & Shell, will follow Camelot’s lead in taking the UK Gambling Commission to court over their decision to award the National Lottery licence to the Allwyn Group.
Through their New Lottery Company subsidiary, Northern & Shell run the popular Health Lottery, and they believed they were well placed in the race for the new National Lottery licence, which will last for ten years and get underway in 2024.
But Desmond, like the incumbents Camelot, were dumbfounded when a points-based scoring system used by the regulator ranked Allwyn higher than the other contestants in their ‘preferred bidder’ announcement.
And so Northern & Shell have joined Camelot in filing legal proceedings against the Commission, citing alleged irregularities in how the authority scored each applicant as the basis for their appeal.
As if the whole process wasn’t mired in enough scandal, the Sunday Telegraph has also reported that Italian lottery outfit Sisal, another of the 2024 licence applicants, is planning a legal case of its own against the beleaguered regulator.
Although they haven’t commented on the new speculation, the Gambling Commission issued a statement in the wake of Camelot’s well-publicised anger.
“We regret Camelot’s decision to bring legal proceedings following the outcome of a highly successful competition for the fourth National Lottery licence,” a spokesperson revealed.
“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.”
No date has been confirmed for the various court cases, nor has any of the aggrieved parties made it known what compensation they seek.
It was revealed in March that the Gambling Commission had named the Allwyn Group as their preferred option to run the National Lottery – bringing an end to the near 30-year monopoly of Camelot as the licence holder.
The firm, which runs lotteries in Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic, is owned and operated by Czech billionaire Karel Komarek, who hired a number of well-known Brits – including Sir Keith Mills and Lord Sebastian Coe – to improve the PR of his bid.
And it was a decision that came off, as Allwyn defeated the likes of Camelot and the New Lottery Company in the competition. The Commission has since passed their recommendation on to government ministers, who have the final say on the awarding of the licence.
Camelot, perhaps, only have themselves to blame. Despite astronomical earnings, the contribution they made to charitable causes from money raised had not increased to the same scale – Allwyn promised to deliver more than double Camelot’s charity fundraising effort over the next decade.
The newcomers have also embraced new technologies in their lottery draws overseas, and that ability to engage a younger audience – and reverse the ‘slide towards scratchcards and instant win games’ – is thought to have won over the Commission….much to the chagrin of the other contestants.