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Will Allwyn’s UK National Lottery Licence Bid Be Downed By Russian Sanctions?

Risk DialIt has been reported by a significant media outlet that the battle to win the next National Lottery licence in the UK is now a two-horse race.

The Daily Mail has published a story claiming that the Gambling Commission will choose between current operator Camelot and European firm Allwyn for the next lottery licence, which is set to begin in 2023.

The newspaper has even claimed that Allwyn had taken the lead in the race, but a ‘risk factor’ assessment led some officials to suggest that Camelot is a safer pair of hands instead.

But some critics have commented that Camelot simply makes too much money from a lottery draw that is supposed to raise cash for good causes – just 10p out of every £1 spent on scratchcards goes to charitable concerns.

However, a new twist in the story may perhaps have made the Commission’s mind up for them….

Allwyn is run by the Czech billionaire Karel Komarek, and he is said to have close ties with Gazprom, the Russian state-owned energy firm.

And, in the light of the sanctions being imposed on businesses and individuals with close associations with the Kremlin, it seems increasingly likely that Allwyn will be overlooked in their quest for the lucrative lottery licence.

From Russia Without Love

Gas Pipeline Valves

Keen to differentiate themselves during the bidding process, Komarek and Allwyn revealed some ambitious plans for the future of the National Lottery draw.

That included slashing the price of tickets in half to £1, as it was when the new lottery was launched for the first time in 1994.

But investigations into Komarek’s business activities have revealed a partnership between his company Moravske Naftove Doly and Gazprom, who together have built underground gas storage infrastructure in the Czech Republic.

And the gas they are using is thought to be supplied by a subsidiary of Gazprom, which leaves Komarek at the mercy of government sanctions in the UK if ministers believe he has profited from links to Vladimir Putin.

The entrepreneur, said to be worth $7.7 billion by Forbes magazine, moved into lotteries and gaming via his KKCG holding company, who acquired the lotteries operator SAZKA in 2012. That gave him ownership of lottery draws across Europe, including those in Italy, Austria and Greece, and in 2021 the decision was taken to rebrand SAZKA as Allwyn as part of their National Lottery bid.

It’s believed that Gazprom could on a list of companies likely to be sanctioned if the invasion of Ukraine continues, although Komarek himself has publicly denounced Putin’s brutal regime.

He took to his LinkedIn page to write:

“I strongly condemn the act of war which Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation have undertaken. I am confident that world powers and all democratic nations will impose the strongest possible sanctions on Russia.

“If we can achieve this, we will successfully show Vladimir Putin that senseless acts of war have no place here, or anywhere else.”

Allwyn have pledged to donate £38 billion to good causes over the cause of the next decade if their bid is successful – Camelot currently pay £16 billion over the same timeframe. A decision is expected on the winning operator later in March.