It must have been a wrench but finally–almost six months to the day of receiving the bad news that it had lost its long-running licence–UK lottery operator Camelot has called it quits and conceded victory to Allwyn Entertainment in the fight over the richest prize in British and European gambling.
The Camelot Group—owned, somewhat incongruously, by the Ontario Teachers’ Trade Union Pension Fund—has operated the UK Lotto since its inception in 1994, raising an estimated £40 billion (US$46.35bn) for good causes over the intervening 28-years.
Thus, it was hot favourite to win the fourth licencing tenure, which runs for 10-years from March 2024.
But in March this year the UK Gambling Commission, the licensing arbitrators, announced that Allwyn Entertainment, owned by Czech billionaire Karel Komarek, were the surprise winners to run the British national lottery going forward.
Like a child robbed of its favourite lollipop, Camelot reacted with fury, positing rumours of a stitch-up and—amid the growing controversy of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine–trying to weaponise Komarek’s alleged ties to Russian ruler Vladimir Putin.
One of Komarek’s many companies did indeed at one time have a joint venture gas storage facility with Russia’s Gazprom. But that link has since been severed.
In April Camelot launched a High Court appeal over the decision to award the British lottery licence to Allwyn’s UK division.
The legal wrangle threatened the very continuance of the lottery, with the real possibility of suspending its myriad of prize draws.
But now Camelot, perhaps taking its cue from outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has resigned itself to its fate and decided, like the Roman statesman Cincinnatus, to “return to the plough”.
“Allwyn very much welcomes this decision and looks forward to cooperating with Camelot and the UK Gambling Commission on the transition process,” Allwyn said in a statement, released today.
“[We] are excited at the prospect of becoming the custodian of Europe’s biggest lottery.”
In a measure of its goodwill, Allwyn UK has forgone any intention of suing Camelot over the delay and waived legal costs.
Camelot has yet to comment further on its decision to abandon its legal challenge.
In addition, it remains unclear if they will also drop threatened proceedings to claim compensation of £600 million (US$695.3m) for losing the government contract to run the lottery.
Meanwhile, Robert Chvatal, CEO of Allwyn UK, affirms that the company is now determined to “re-energise and reinvigorate” its prize win.
“We believe that no monopoly in the world can guarantee you relevance to the consumer.
“Players never need to miss a small win. It should look and feel modern and slick rather than dated and tired, both in retail and online. This is what [Allwyn] does in many markets.
“We are in the business of making lotteries better and running contemporary lotteries from A to Z, like the scope of licence in the UK.”
With its parent company Allwyn Entertainment now set for a US$9.3 billion (£8.02bn) listing on the New York Stock Exchange, which will take it truly global, Allwyn UK is preparing to dream a little.
While it could be you, it’s definitely them.