This story was originally featured in December 2020’s issue of SBC Leaders. Click here to download or read the magazine online.

Following the launch of the UK Gambling Commission’s tender for a fourth National Lottery licence, three operators have placed their hat in the ring to run the UK’s ‘national treasure’. But what can we expect from the three contenders?

With the current licence due to expire in 2023, the fourth licence award will build on the success of the National Lottery that has seen it collectively raise over £41bn for 565,000 good causes across the UK since its 1994 launch.

This will be achieved through the creation of a framework that maximises the opportunities for players and good causes to benefit from innovation and creativity, whilst protecting the National Lottery’s unique status.

When the tender was launched earlier this year, UK Gambling Commission Chief Executive Neil McArthur disclosed that the new licence holder will gain a ‘greater autonomy’ to meet player demands, but will also become more accountable for the lottery’s performance.

“The National Lottery is a national treasure,” he said. “It has a reputation for providing enjoyable games and a high degree of player protection, as well as a rich history of prize giving and returns to good causes. We are determined to protect and build on the reputation of the National Lottery. 

“For the fourth licence, we will be evolving our approach to regulation to build on the National Lottery’s huge successes. In line with our outcomes-focussed approach to regulation, we want the next licensee to have greater autonomy to meet the needs of players in 2023 and beyond, whilst ensuring there is clear accountability for the performance of the National Lottery. 

“Throughout our market engagement, we have been encouraged by a healthy level of interest from a range of different parties and we look forward to running a competitive process.”

But what makes the new licence any different from previous years? There will be a few key changes, including a fixed 10-year licence, providing a clear period for investment planning and a focus on performance through the provision of greater flexibility to maximise returns to good causes, hand-in-hand with ensuring safe and fair play.

The new incentive mechanism will ensure the licensee’s motives and delivery are closely aligned with returns to good causes, and brand protection will be introduced with the licensee now required to foster stronger relationships with the distributors of lottery funding to further strengthen the link between the lottery brand, its players, and good causes.


Camelot: Starting off with Camelot, the Canadian operator has been running the National Lottery since its inception and it was almost a certainty that it would bid to retain the operating licence in the fourth tender.

It was awarded a seven-year licence to run the UK lottery in May 1994, a second seven-year licence in December 2000 (which started on 27 January 2002), and a third licence period in February 2009, extending its licence for 10 years with the option to extend by a further five years. In March 2012, the National Lottery Commission extended Camelot’s Licence by four years to 2023 following the commission’s agreement to Camelot’s proposal to deliver around £1.7bn in additional lottery funding to society.

Since it started operating the UK lottery, Camelot has delivered, on average, around £30m each week to National Lottery Good Causes. Combined with the Lottery Duty it pays to the government, which is £17.5bn to date, the group returns one of the highest percentages of lottery revenue to society in the world. It has handed out over £75bn to date in prize money. 

In terms of ticket sales, Camelot generated ‘record’ sales of £7.91bn in 2019/20, an increase of £698.3m on the previous year and a third successive year of sales growth following the company’s wide-ranging strategic review carried out in 2017.

As a result, Camelot generated £1.9bn for good causes in 2019/20, making a difference to people and communities across the UK, and it awarded £4.51bn in prize money to players, creating 355 new National Lottery millionaires in the process.

Camelot undoubtedly has the experience of operating the UK National Lottery, with its sales figures and charitable contributions a testament to this. This latest tender does appear to be the biggest challenge that the operator has faced in terms of its current monopoly, however. 

If the suggestions that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering shifting responsibility for the National Lottery from the Department of Culture, Digital, Media and Sport to an enhanced business department or the Cabinet Office are true, this could undoubtedly result in a few bumps in the road. 

SAZKA: Competing for the fourth National Lottery licence alongside Camelot is the Sazka Group, which operates lotteries in Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece and Italy

Sazka made its intentions known to add the UK National Lottery to its portfolio after becoming the first operator to complete the Gambling Commission’s Selection Questionnaire back at the start of October.

Since its inception, the UK National Lottery has changed ‘beyond measure’ according to Sazka CEO Robert Chvatal, who – at the time of announcing its decision to enter the lottery tender – stated that the Czech operator would be ‘thrilled’ to be awarded the licence.

“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. The UK National Lottery is a national treasure with a proud 26-year history,” he noted.

“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 Covid. The landscape from when the UK National Lottery was launched back in 1994 has changed beyond measure.”

“At Sazka we have a track record of facilitating the evolution of established lotteries to innovate for their successful future. We are serious about our intentions and respectful of the process we are entering into. 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.”

Sazka appears to be confident in its chances to become the new lottery tender, establishing its UK team for the Fourth National Lottery Licence competition late last month by appointing Sir Keith Mills as its Bid Chair.

With a wide range of experience in the sport, charity and business sectors, Sazka will draw on Mills’ expertise to facilitate change, growth and engagement for the National Lottery. 

One of the key challenges with this, according to Mills, is ensuring that the lottery adapts to the changing digital landscape: “The challenge now is to ensure the lottery connects with people right across the country, making it fresh and exciting as it once was, bringing new ways that are relevant for today and tomorrow’s generation,” he said. 

“I feel passionately that it needs to be restored to the nation’s hearts, especially in these difficult times. I teamed up with Sazka because they have a proven record of taking established lotteries, growing them and evolving them to be relevant for the future.”

The last few months have taught us that operators must be clued up on engaging with players. It will be interesting to see what Sazka can bring to a lottery which has already been operational for 26 years – but by establishing a UK team and accepting the challenges ahead, their application appears to be promising.

Sugal & Damani: This isn’t the first time India’s largest lottery operator has competed for the UK National Lottery licence, after it was declared as a reserved bidder in the 2007 process.

The technology arm of Sugal & Damani, Skilrock Technologies, has already established its name as a lottery provider – operational in 26 jurisdictions around the world, including some of the prominent World Lottery Association member lotteries.

When Sugal & Damani entered the race to run the National Lottery last month, Kamlesh Vijay, Group CEO emphasised his belief that the company meets “all required standards like propriety, technology, player protection, channel management, financial capability, etc” to run the lottery.

“As far as the UK lottery market is concerned, it is a large one and highly reputed,” he said. “There is a huge local following and brand reputation for the UK National lottery, but there are challenges in the market too because people are looking for new excitement and there is stiff competition from other gambling products.

“We believe that people have a soft corner due to the fact that lotteries contribute more towards well defined good causes, so that attitude is a big plus point. However, continued innovation is very much required in a responsible way to consolidate on this soft corner. Being an organization with deep-rooted innovation in every sphere of our activity we are happy to be in the competition.”


Now the Selection Questionnaire process has concluded, the next step for each participant will be the Invitation to Apply, which concludes in July 2021, and then, after review, an announcement of a preferred applicant to take on the fourth National Lottery licence will be made in September 2021.

While the announcement of a winner is a long way off, what is clear is that there are significant changes needed to keep the National Lottery thriving and fit-for-purpose for the next generations. As the UK battles the COVID-19 pandemic, it is key that the National Lottery keeps making the needed investments to good causes across the country.

This story was originally featured in December 2020’s issue of SBC Leaders. Click here to download or read the magazine online.