Pan-European lottery and gaming giant Sazka Group has announced it will compete for the fourth UK National Lottery licence, becoming the first business to confirm its participation in the process.
Sazka, which already operates lotteries in Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece and Italy, has completed its response to the Gambling Commission’s Selection Questionnaire, the first step in the tender process set out in August this year. “As a leader in operating lotteries across Europe, Sazka has made no secret of the fact that we would be thrilled to operate the UK National Lottery,” Sazka chief executive Robert Chvátal said. “The UK National Lottery is a national treasure with a proud 26-year history. “Now it is looking forward to the next decade and how it can best serve its customers in a world so disrupted by digital transformation, the fourth industrial revolution and [novel coronavirus],” he continued. “The landscape from when the UK National Lottery was launched back in 1994 has changed beyond measure.” Chvátal revealed that the operator was in the process of hiring a team in the UK, and building the partnerships and relationships needed to deliver “a compelling case” for Sazka to replace Camelot as the lottery’s operator. The tender announcement in August set out a number of changes to operating conditions for the National Lottery, with the winning bidder to be handed a fixed, ten-year term. The next operator will also be granted more flexibility in how it achieves its good causes funding targets. Furthermore, the contract will set out incentives to encourage the operator to reach these funding targets, and mandate closer relationships with bodies responsible for distributing National Lottery money. Chvátal said that Sazka’s track record of “facilitating the evolution of established lotteries to innovate for their successful future” left it well-placed to fulfil these aims. “We are serious about our intentions and respectful of the process we are entering into,” he said. “We submitted our completed application to the Gambling Commission by yesterday’s deadline. This was an important and exciting moment for us, marking our official entry into the competition. We trust that our submission will demonstrate our professional track record and technical capabilities.” The tender had been due to launch in the first half of 2020, only to be pushed back as a result of disruption caused by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. This in turn led to incumbent Camelot being granted a six-month extension to its current contract. The other runners and riders are yet to confirm their participation in the tender, though the deadline for interested parties to submit their selection questionnaire passed on 2 October. This would suggest that those competing will either be announced by the Gambling Commission or the individual companies over the coming days. Camelot, which has held the National Lottery licence since its formation in 1994, is certain to compete – though has not officially confirmed its involvement – while Health Lottery operator Northern & Shell is understood to be interested. Sugal & Damani, which was the only competitor to Camelot in the third licence process in 2009, may also be involved. However, its chief executive Kamlesh Vijay told iGB in September that the delays may ultimately create another two-horse race, something the Gambling Commission had been eager to avoid.