Czech gambling operator, Sazka, has hired the chairman of London’s 2012 Olympic bid to support its application to run the UK’s National Lottery.
Sir Keith Mills, founder of both the Air Miles and Sainsbury’s Nectar-point shopping loyalty schemes, said the gambling environment had “changed immeasurably” since the lottery was initially launched and that the format needed to be made “as fresh and exciting as it once was” when the licence is renewed in 2023. The race for the National Lottery tender has narrowed markedly, in Sazka ’s favour, in recent months, largely due to Virgin billionaire Richard Branson withdrawing his bid as his Virgin Atlantic airline fleet and other divisions have been hammered by the pandemic.
Others that have registered an interest in applying for the Lottery include media mogul Richard Desmond, who currently also runs the Health Lottery, and Sugal & Domani, an Indian gambling firm.
The current licence holder, Camelot, is an obvious lead contender, and has invested heavily in turning the business around after repeated criticisms from the regulator over increasing its profits at the expense of the good causes it is mandated to support.
It has since achieved a record turnover of £7.9bn for the year to March 2020 – ten percent up on the previous year – while increasing the cash distributed to charities by 12 percent, to £1.85bn.
The Gambling Commission has since established a new mandate for a fixed sum given by operators to the social fund, on top of a fixed percentage of its profits.