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Allwyn takes control of UK National Lottery

| By Robert Fletcher
Allwyn has today (1 February) officially taken control of the UK National Lottery, 16 months after it was formally awarded the licence by the Gambling Commission.
Allwyn Q1

Formerly known as Sazka, Allwyn replaces Camelot, which ran the National Lottery since its launch in 1994. Allwyn now assumes responsibility for all National Lottery operations and products.

In securing the fourth licence, Allwyn saw off competition from a number of heavy hitters. Rival bids included Camelot, The New Lottery Company, owned by Health Lottery operator Northern and Shell and Italy’s Sisal.

The National Lottery covers online and retail sales for the main Lotto draw as well as Set For Life, Thunderball and Hotpicks. It also includes scratchcards and UK access to Europe-wide game EuroMillions.

What can we expect?

According to the Commission, the fourth licence features several new initiatives for the National Lottery. These include a new ‘Incentive Mechanism’, whereby all National Lottery products will make ‘Returns to Good Causes’ at the same level. In addition, Allwyn will only see profits rise if good causes returns go up.

ICE London Andrew Rhodes
andrew rhodes called allywn taking control a “historic moment”

Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes said Allwyn taking control is an “historic moment” and also a “milestone” for the regulator.

“The National Lottery celebrates its 30th birthday this year and in that time it’s made a huge impact on the UK,” Rhodes said. “Everyone at the Commission is committed to moving forwards with Allwyn and government to make the fourth licence a big success for players and for the good causes that rely upon it up and down the country.

“The fourth licence by design will mean more of every pound spent on the National Lottery will go to good causes whilst still making sure it is safe to play.”

John Tanner, Commission executive director and senior responsible owner for the fourth National Lottery licence, also welcomes the new ara.

“The Commission is grateful to colleagues at both Allwyn as the new operator of the National Lottery and Camelot as the outgoing operator for their work to get us to this point successfully,” Tanner said.

“Many people, especially at the Commission have already worked extremely hard to make sure that the next 10 years of the National Lottery are even more successful and I would like to thank them for that.”

Tricky route to the fourth licence

However, it was not all plain sailing for Allwyn, which had to overcome several hurdles to secure the licence. These began when the Commission named Allwyn as its preferred applicant for the licence in March 2022.

This led to criticism from Camelot and International Game Technology (IGT), its technology provider. Both criticised the decision and eventually challenged it in court.   

Camelot issued a legal challenge, arguing the Commission had not been forthright in its communication. It also said its employees were “owed a proper explanation” over the decision not to renew its licence. This led to the High Court automatically suspending the licensing decision.

Camelot eventually withdrew its high court challenge following media reports that money for good causes could be at risk in a lengthy case. This essentially removed Allwyn’s final obstacle and the licence was formally awarded.

As for IGT, the tech giant was pursuing a claim for damages. However, this month IGT asked the Court of Appeal to dismiss the claim. It has since agreed a new technology partnership with Allwyn.

Camelot to remain at the table

While the Camelot name will no longer be associated with the National Lottery, its legacy will live on following several acquisitions by Allwyn.

The group purchased Camelot UK, which operated the National Lottery, in February 2023. It also acquired Camelot Lottery Solutions (Camelot LS) earlier in 2023. The US-facing business has since been rebranded as Allwyn North America to reflect the purchase. 

This allowed Allwyn to fully prepare for taking control of the National Lottery. In essence, the Camelot UK acquisition granted Allwyn insight into the operations of the lottery ahead of it actually assuming its new responsibilities. 

Assembling an Allwyn army

Preparations have also seen Allwyn put together a UK leadership team and roster of support staff.

Andria Vidler joined as CEO in July 2023 and Alan Artz as chief financial officer last summer from William Hill. Lotto NZ CEO Chris Lyman is chief operating officer and Mark Smith group chief technology officer.

Other key figures will include chief assurance and participant protection officer Gaby Heppner-Logan and chief commercial officer Lucy Buckley. Martin Novak is chief data officer and Alastair Ruxton chief strategy and corporate affairs officer.

Elsewhere, Sam Sheriff is serving as chief people officer, Harry Willits general counsel and Jenny Blogg operations director. In addition, Eddie Bennett and Paul Lumb are working as transformation directors for operations and technology, respectively.

Recent hires include Steve Parkinson, formerly of Bauer Media, as brand and marketing director for its Allwyn UK business, and Mark Hughes as chief security officer.

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