The UK’s National Lottery is to be awarded to the Czech operator Allwyn following one of the most hotly contested battles to win the licence in the scheme’s 28-year history.
The Gambling Commission said on Tuesday that Allwyn, which was previously known as Sazka and rebranded with a Saxon name during the process, had been designated as “preferred applicant” to run the lottery when the current licence expires in 2024.
It is the first time that the lottery will not be run by the incumbent Camelot.
Other applicants included Camelot, the Italian lottery operator Sisal and the media tycoon Richard Desmond, with the competition attracting the most ever candidates.
Both Camelot and Allwyn have been lining up lawyers to contest the decision should it not go their way. Camelot will be the reserve applicant should Allwyn be unable to take up the contract, the commission said on Tuesday.
“Our priority was to run a competition that would attract a strong field of candidates. Having received the most applications since 1994, it is clear that we’ve achieved just that,” said Andrew Rhodes, the commission’s chief executive.
The commission also noted that it was “satisfied that no application is impacted by sanctions related to the conflict in Ukraine” after it emerged that the Sazka’s owner, Czech businessman Karel Komarek, ran a gas joint venture with the Russian energy group Gazprom. Komarek was in talks with the Czech government to nationalise the facility, Allwyn said.
The National Lottery is one of the most lucrative government contracts on offer in the UK and one of the largest lotteries in the world. In the year to March 2021, Camelot made £8.3bn in sales and raised £1.9bn for charities.
Allwyn and Camelot could not be immediately reached for comment.