As the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) opens its tender to run the fourth National Lottery Contract from 2023, a war of titanic egos and high stakes will take place in 2020.
Monitoring early advancements, UK media labelled the National Lottery tender as one of the most intriguing business narratives in 2020, as incumbent Camelot is defending its role against hostile competitors trying to end its 25-year reign.
The Daily Telegraph confirmed this weekend that by making his third attempt to secure the National Lottery, billionaire Sir Richard Branson–Virgin’s founder and chairman–would join the UKGC proceedings.
Riding champion stud Desert Orchid to Parliament in 1994, Branson launched his first campaign called “People’s Lottery” promising to “return all profits to charity.”
The People’s Lottery offer would be rejected by the Major Conservative government, which, in collaboration with GTech as the leading supplier of lottery systems, will support the establishment of a’ Camelot operating vehicle’ created by ICL, Racal Electronics, Cadbury Schweppes and De La Rue.
Branson would challenge the second tender of the National Lottery in 2000 by restarting the’ People’s Lottery’ bid, this time re-energised by Compaq Microsoft and Kellogg’s support.
However, the Blair Labour government would reject an acrimonious bid against Camelot, which underlined in its review that the People’s Lottery had failed to prove the hardware capacity capable of handling a national lottery retail network–a factor that Camelot backers considered to be foul play.
Having won back-to-back contracts in 1994, 2001 and 2009, it will be Camelot’s biggest challenge to date to secure the 2020 National Lottery tender, having faced recent political and media backlash over its fundraising and operations.
A Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report in 2018 detailed that funding for good causes for National Lottery had fallen by 15 percent, despite Camelot’s increasing annual profits by £ 39 million.
In addition, Camelot was criticised for placing too much emphasis on his scratch card inventory, while players criticised his attempts to revive the National Lottery main draw for adding another 10 balls to the format, which in turn inflated the chances of hitting jackpots and increased the number of weekly roll-overs.
Taking the fight to Camelot, the tycoon of the newspaper Richard Desmond ordered his publishing company Northern & Shell to launch a tech-savvy bid for the National Lottery in 2020.
When the company was sold to The Ontario Teachers ‘ Pension Fund in 2010 for £ 390 million, the controversial billionaire criticised the government for allowing Camelot to retain its position as the lead lottery operator.
Desmond argues that the British business stakeholders should operate the National Lottery instead of as an investment asset for a Canadian pension. In fact, in 2012, after challenging the UK publishers lottery model Health Lottery, Camelot lost its UK High Court appeal against Northern & Shell.
Other parties reported to be developing bids to secure interest beyond British shores include Dutch lottery incumbent Novamedia BV, European Postcode Lotteries operator, and a restructured Czech gambling conglomerate SAZKA Group, which secured a majority stake in Greek operator OPAP this summer.
By 2020, the UK business sector is waiting for the UKGC to launch its tender structure in which investment bank Rothschilds, auditor EY, management consultancy Deloitte and law firm Hogan Lovells–four companies selected to administer the tendering process–can advise the regulator.