Three heavyweights limber up for National Lottery battle
Oliver Gill A TRIO of business heavyweights were last night limbering up as battle commences for the right to run the National Lottery.
Current operator Camelot is expected to go head-to-head with firms owned by tycoon Richard Desmond and Czech billionaire Karel Komarek for a 10-year licence starting in 2023 that will generate hundreds of millions of pounds in profit. After inviting expressions of interest almost a year ago, the Gambling Commission will today formally fire the starting gun on what is likely to be the City’s most hotly contested race this year.
Neil McArthur, the regulator’s chief executive, said he had been “encouraged by a healthy level of interest from a range of different parties”.
The Gambling Commission is expected to issue an “invitation to apply document” to suitors that lays out the terms and conditions of the process.
The Sunday Telegraph revealed last year that Sir Richard Branson and Mr Komarek’s Sazka Group were interested parties. While the Virgin Group founder ruled himself out earlier this year, Sazka has bolstered its team by hiring Flint Global, a public affairs firm that employs Dame Sue Owen, the former permanent secretary to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Mr Desmond’s Northern and Shell group runs the rival Health Lottery. A spokesman for Camelot said: “It’s only natural that we are interested in bidding. However, we’re not in a position to confirm whether or not we’ll bid at this stage.”
A spokesman for Sazka said: “We have been considering our position on whether or not to participate.”
The Health Lottery was approached for comment.