The bidding might not have started yet but already there is talk of contenders for the British National Lottery once it is open for tender next year.
The current license does not run out until 2023 but that hasn’t stopped millionaire Richard Desmond from “expressing” his interest.
The 67-year old is best known for once owning the Express and Star newspapers before selling them last year to Trinity Mirror, now called Reach, for a cool £127m ($161m) but now it appears he has his sights set on a British bid for the fourth license of the UK National Lottery.
Lotteries are familiar territory for the media magnate. He owns the Health Lottery, in which 12 local society lotteries hold draws five times a week for a top prize of £25,000 ($31,800).
Desmond’s company Northern and Shell is assembling a bid writing team in the belief that the National Lottery needs a refresh and that they are the ones to do it.
Joint Group Managing Director Martin Ellice said: “It’s lost its life and become a bit lackluster, a bit drab, and a bit boring. We are very interested in bidding. It should be a British company that bids for the National Lottery.”
While the length of the license is still to be determined, it can be as much as 15 years. The Gambling Commission recently said that market engagement will determine the duration.
Britain’s National Lottery is the sixth largest lottery in the world and currently makes about £3.3bn ($4.2bn) in gross gambling yield. This makes it one of the most valuable national franchises available to private companies. The first two franchises were only for eight and seven years respectively, but the last one has been extended from ten to 14 years. Many believe that it is time for a change and that Camelot, which has run the lottery since its inception in 1994, needs to be replaced because the group has recently been beset by problems.
Last August Camelot was fined £1.15m ($1.46m) for failings that included a mobile app glitch and direct debit errors and in 2016 the company was fined £3m ($3.8m) after paying out for an allegedly fraudulent ticket. What’s more, while profits increased at a rate of 122% in 2016-17, charitable contributions have risen by only around 2%.
When the Gambling Commission announced that they would be opening for bids later this year, Chief Executive Neil McArthur focused on the technical innovations that operators could bring to the bid. He said, “The world is a lot different to when the current license was put in place and also to 25 years ago when smartphones were just a twinkle in someone’s eye. Technological innovations offer a lot of opportunities in that space because you have a lot more information about your players. You can see what they’re doing and you can give them tools to help themselves manage their gambling.”
National Lottery has raised £39bn ($49.7bn) for good causes since its inception, creating more than 5,100 millionaires.
Ellice has said he believes contributing to good causes is something that the Gambling Commission will take into account. He thinks the success of the Health Lottery, which claims to have raised £105m ($134m) for good causes and paid out £139m ($177m) in prizes to nine million players, gives Northern and Shell a good chance of acceptance.
In a statement, he added that the Health Lottery has supported 2,900 charities, including Dementia UK and Scope, the disability group.
It is believed that Camelot will bid again for the fourth tender when details are announced later this year.