The apparent delay in the launch of the tender process for the UK National Lottery licence, the fourth of its kind, has been heavily criticised by potential rival bidders to Camelot, siting the hold up as an advantage to the current incumbent.
It had been widely reported in the press that the tender process was set to begin in March, however both the Gambling Commission and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have now revealed that it is on track merely to begin in the first half of 2020.
Delay Better for Camelot Says Rival
Comments attributed to a potential rival bidder reveal frustration at the delay. The bidder stated that the delay in the Fourth National Lottery Licence tender is providing a hugely unfair advantage to Camelot. They also said that bidding for the National Lottery involves substantial costs to all involved, with the current uncertainty being unsustainable for other challengers while inconveniencing Camelot much less.
The anonymous bidder also stated that, without a clear timeline, there remains a significant risk of credible bidders simply abandoning their interest in competing while the Lottery deserves a vigorous competitive process in which Camelot’s incumbency is challenged fairly, otherwise it may as well simply be a state-run lottery.
26 Years of Camelot
Camelot has operated the National Lottery in Britain ever since its inauguration back in 1994, with renewed contracts given to the firm in 2001 and in 2007.
For its part, the Gambling Commission commented via a spokesperson to say that they are focused on running a fair and open competition aimed at finding the right operator for the Lottery, one that will engage players and protect them as well as running the National Lottery with integrity as well as continuing to maximise returns to good causes.
The Commission also stated that they have been encouraged thus fair by the healthy level of interest in the market engagement from a wide range of interested parties. Ensuring that all potential bidders are on an equal footing is very important to the Commission and they will, according to the spokesperson, welcome as many bidders as possible to the tender process when it launches in the first half of this year.
Change is not always needed, of course, but after 26 years of Camelot it is rather hard to believe that other potential operators have not learned enough by now to be able to take the Lottery in a new, arguably better direction.
Delay Implied Rather Than Made Official
Despite the comments of the rival bidder, no delay in the tender process has been officially acknowledged by either the DCMS or the Gambling Commission.
Rather, there simply appears to have been a pushing back of the timelines suggested from early 2020 to now simply the “first half of 2020”.
The DCMS has also come out this week to state their belief that the Gambling Commission was “on track” to launch the competition for the licence within the first half of this year, buzz words that now shape the real timing of the tender.
Despite this tough, back in January a Gambling Commission spokesperson had revealed that they believed the body was on track to launch the process in early 2020 and that they would inform the market when a date was confirmed, something rival bidders clearly believed too.
A host of different businesses are anticipated to challenge for the licence, including the operators of the Health Lottery (Northern and Shell), Czech gaming firm Sazka Group and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.
Other names mooted include Française des Jeux of France, Novomedia from The Netherlands and Tabcorp of Australia.
While these names have all been mentioned in gambling-related press articles numerous times in recent months in connection with taking over running of the UK National Lottery, none have come forward publicly as of yet to register an official interest.
From an industry point of view, we only hope the bidding competition is indeed fair for all.