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During its 28-years sitting astride the UK National Lottery, the operator Camelot has seen off five prime ministers, de-flowered Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin and given the finger to the potential threat of the digital revolution.
All appeared well for the lottery gaming giant.
In the year ending 31 March 2021 British lottery sales reached a record of £8.37 billion (US$10.05bn/€9.87bn) – an increase of £468.8 million (US$563.34m/€552.9m).
And Camelot, owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, one of the world’s largest institutional investors, boasted that it had contributed some $45 billion (US$54.07bn/€53.07bn) to 660,000 good causes in the UK since it had first promised: “It Could Be You.”
But Camelot’s cushy world came crashing down this March when the fourth UK National Lottery licence (starting from 1 January, 2024) was awarded–against most informed predictions–to an up-and-coming European lottery operator called Allwyn Entertainment.
Like a child who’s had its ice cream confiscated, a brattish Camelot still doesn’t concede that it “can’t be them” and they’ve been in a hissy-fit ever since, determined to get the decision overturned.
Their dirty tricks campaign to smear Allwyn’s ultimate owner, Czech billionaire Karel Komárek, who heads the KKCG Investment Group, as a crony of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, ended in abject failure.
But now the Camelot bid has been revived by the UK’s Court of Appeal, which has given the group permission to legally challenge the National Lottery licensing decision.
Meanwhile, with the appeal hearing not likely to take place until early September, the formal hand-over to Allwyn hangs in suspension.
The UK’s Gambling Commission (UKGC), which oversees the nation’s gambling industry and the lottery licensing process, is far from happy with the latest legal move.
“We are, obviously, disappointed with this outcome, but respect the court’s decision. The appeal process will generate challenges for the transition to the fourth licence and further delay the award of the licence to Allwyn,” the UKGC said in a statement.
“Throughout the litigation process, we have been clear that disrupting the implementation of Allwyn’s plans would present potentially severe consequences for the National Lottery and good causes.
“[This] risks the National Lottery not operating to its full potential at the start of the fourth licence.”
Such fears, quite naturally, are shared by Allwyn.
“We are obviously disappointed by today’s decision,” said their UK Chair Justin King.
“It creates the likelihood of further delay as the appeal will not be held until September. It is common ground that this delay will damage the introduction of the benefits the Fourth Licence brings for Good Causes.”
In a further tantrum, Camelot is also seeking an estimated £600 million in damages from the UKGC (US$721m/€707.64m).
One can’t help wondering what percentage of such a sanction, if imposed, would be donated to charity?
Perhaps it’s only fitting to ask: Will somebody please put the Camelot baby back in its pram.