UKGC to Back Allwyn Choice in Court

A judge signing a legal document next to a gavel.

The Gambling Commission will ask the high court to award the fourth National Lottery license contract to Allwyn. The gambling regulator named the Czech lottery giant as its preferred applicant earlier this year. Camelot, which has held the license since 1994, has raised a legal challenge against the Commission.

A judge signing a legal document next to a gavel.

Critics say that the regulator could cost good causes millions if it chooses to pursue awarding the license to Allwyn. ©Ekaterina Bolovtsova/Pexels

Losses to Good Causes

The UK’s gambling watchdog will request that the high court force the next National Lottery license to be awarded to its first choice, Allwyn. Camelot, which has fought of the competition for the last 28 years, announced that it would take the Gambling Commission to court shortly after it discovered that it had lost the license.

The regulator named Allwyn as its preferred applicant in March, in a decision that came as a shock to many. Camelot, which won all three license competitions prior, was selected as the Commission’s reserve candidate. This means that it will only be awarded the license if for any unforeseen reason Allwyn is unable to take it up.

For Camelot, that result was not good enough. It swiftly began coordinating its legal challenge against the regulator. Former pornographer Richard Desmond, who also submitted a bid for the license, and Camelot’s technology provider IGT are also taking legal action over the Commission’s decision.

The unsuccessful bidders will present their case to the high court in October. In the meantime, the Gambling Commission is unable to proceed towards handing the license over to Allwyn. This week, lawyers representing the Gambling Commission asked a high court judge to remove that temporary block.

It is seeking permission to sign an enabling agreement with Allwyn. If the judge does not remove the block, the transition of the upcoming lottery license is at risk of being delayed. This could in turn have a negative impact on payments to good causes. Not all involved agree with that suggestion though.

According to critics, the decision to award the license to Allwyn could itself deprive the lottery’s good causes of up to £800 million. A source familiar with the legal battle has claimed that the regulator is being too hasty towards pushing through the license, and that this could diminish payments to the charities and organizations that benefit from National Lottery support.

They added that if the Commission’s request to have the block lifted is successful, it will be close to impossible to prevent Allwyn from being awarded the license. In that case, Camelot, IGT and Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell would continue with their legal challenges. However, they would be suing for damages rather than for the Commission’s decision to be reversed.

Camelot Fight Back

The combined damages claim, including costs incurred during the bid process, could cost the Gambling Commission up to £800 million. According to the source, the watchdog is essentially gambling with money meant for good causes. They suggest that instead, Camelot’s current license should be extended for an extra six months to allow the trial to go ahead.

Camelot is expected to pursue compensation for lost income that it would have gained from operating the National Lottery between 2024 and 2034. If Camelot’s legal challenge is favored by the judge, it could be allowed to continue to operate the National Lottery, and no damages would be paid. In the event that it loses, the Commission’s choice to award the license to Allwyn will still stand.

Camelot has been granted a temporary license extension before. In 2000, the regulator decided to award the license to Sir Richard Branson’s ‘People’s Lottery’. The decision was influenced by the fact that a technical problem with Camelot’s lottery terminals had caused winners to be paid incorrect amounts.

Camelot initiated legal action against the Commission, where the High Court judges sided with Camelot. The regulator was forced to reopen the bidding process, after which it awarded the franchise to Camelot. Sir Richard Branson threatened further legal action, but backed down due to spiraling costs.

Since then, Camelot has been no stranger to controversy. In 2018, the operator was fined £1.15 million by the Gambling Commission over its malfunctioning mobile app. Errors included telling customers that they had lost when their tickets had actually won, charging players twice for one ticket, and sending out marketing messages to customers that had self-excluded.

In 2022, the regulator found that Camelot had not learnt from its mistakes and had repeated many of the same failures. It was fined £3.15 million over further mobile app shortcomings.

EuroMillions Winner

Camelot has not commented on proceedings since it announced the launch of its legal challenge at the beginning of April. The operator’s CEO Nigel Railton stated that despite considerable correspondence, it had failed to receive a satisfactory response from the Commission. Railton continued:

“We are launching a legal challenge today in our capacity as an applicant for the Fourth License because we firmly believe that the Gambling Commission has got this decision badly wrong. When we received the result, we were shocked by aspects of the decision.”

Last week, former Chief Executive at Camelot, Dame Dianne Thompson, wrote to the Commission over the issue. She asked the regulator to abandon its attempt to push forward with awarding the license to Allwyn, in order to avoid any risk to contributions to good causes.

Since its launch in 1994, the National Lottery has helped to raise more than £45 billion for 660,000 good causes up and down the UK. The money donated has helped to transform communities and keep arts, sports and heritage organizations going. Over the same time period, it has also created more than 6,300 new millionaires.

This week, one lucky ticket-holder has won the country’s biggest ever National Lottery prize. The ticket has not been validated or paid out yet, and the identity of the winner has not been made public. They are however the winner of a £184 million EuroMillions jackpot.

Once the ticket-holder has been given their winnings, they will find themselves wealthier than celebrities like Adele and Anthony Joshua. Since the launch of EuroMillions in 2004, fifteen UK players have won jackpots worth upwards of £100 million.

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Colorful numbered lottery balls.