The UK National Lottery could be suspended for the first time in its 30-year history, according to British media. The news comes as a court battle among gaming operators over the lottery license threatens to pause the popular game.
In March, operator Camelot lost its license to run the National Lottery after 28 years at the helm as the UK Gambling Commission named rival Allwyn Entertainment as its preferred applicant to take over. Allwyn, owned by the Czech group Sazka, is expected to take over from Camelot in 2024 following this decision.
However, Camelot shortly after launched a high court challenge against the UKGC, accusing the regulator on the grounds of breaking the law when it allegedly discarded Camelot’s score in the system that measures the bids.
The case could potentially take months, and even years, to resolve. But most importantly, it also could lead to the multimillion-pound draws being suspended during any handover in two years, The Sun reports. It could also mean players who land winnings under Camelot will be unable to claim their prizes when it no longer runs the lottery.
The cited source further claims stakeholders share “grave fears” that the court battle could directly harm the money for good causes raised by the game. A ruling is expected this week to resolve whether there will be a suspension of the lottery in 2024 should the court proceedings remain unresolved, making it the first time the game is suspended in its three decades of history.
Allwyn was elected to take over in March, while Camelot was named reserve applicant, meaning it would continue to run the lottery if finalization could not be achieved with the preferred party. In a statement at the time, the UKGC described the selection as a “fair, open and robust competition which received four applicants at the final stage.”
But in early April, Camelot’s Chief Executive Nigel Railton announced the company was launching a legal challenge as it firmly believed that the Gambling Commission got the decision "badly wrong,” with the regulator failing to provide the operator “a satisfactory response” on what happened for the business to lose the license application.
According to a report by The Telegraph from last month, Camelot had a 15% “risk factor” discount as the former National Lottery’s operator that was supposed to be applied to bidders’ financial forecasts. Camelot is expected to claim that the discount was initially applied by the regulator, but later changed to zero in the final adjudication. The company alleges there is a risk the lottery will be run for ten years by an operator that has been “unlawfully appointed.”
The change in rules turned Allwyn’s projections for good causes to be higher than Camelot’s, allowing Czech billionaire and Allwyn’s boss Karel Komarek to secure the license for his business. Camelot’s legal challenge seeks to prevent its rival from signing the contract to run the National Lottery.
“We regret Camelot’s decision to bring legal proceedings following the outcome of a highly successful competition for the fourth National Lottery license. The competition and our evaluation have been carried out fairly and lawfully in accordance with our statutory duties, and we are confident that a court would come to that conclusion,” the UKGC said last month.