Covid Ate My Lotto, UK in Bidding War

The mid-Covid scramble to gobble up Britain’s hugely successful National Lottery is on — and it threatens to unleash the mother of all bidding wars.

The license to run the lotto–controlled since the lottery’s launch in 1994 by Camelot–is up for renewal in 2023 and will be settled by auction this autumn.

Currently, there are five major runners. All are determined to hit the jackpot and run out as winner.

New at the post is Sisal, the operator of Italy’s most popular lottery, SuperEnalotto. The company is owned by venture investors CVC Capital Partners and—in what could be their trump card—are partnered in their bid by Barnardo’s, the children’s charity.

CVC brings the financial brawn and Barnardo’s contributes the humanitarian fund-raising expertise.

Camelot, a British-led consortium when it first won the UK franchise, is now owned by the super-wealthy Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan of Canada.

Boosted by the Covid lockdowns, Camelot posted record sales in 2020.

Another gambling giant bidding for the UK lotto licence is Sazka, owned by billionaire Karel Komárek, who runs lotteries in Greece, Italy and his native Czech Republic.

Sazka are backed by CVC’s arch-rivals, the ubiquitous Wall Street venture capitalists, Apollo Global Management, who, one may recall, tried to snatch William Hill from the embrace of MGM last year.

UK media mogul Richard Desmond and Indian lottery operator Sugal & Damani, meantime, have also thrown their hats into the ring.

One long-time player who won’t be at the table is Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson. Branson tried to wrest control of the National Lottery from Camelot for several years. But Covid has eaten his liquidity and derailed his ambition to run the UK lottery.

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