A Conservative MP has raised concerns over Allwyn’s status as the preferred applicant for the fourth National Lottery licence, citing reports over the firm’s Chairman Karel Komarek’s joint venture with the Russian energy supplier Gazprom.
Amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Dean Russell, MP for Watford – the constituency in which outgoing licensee Camelot is located – questioned whether it was ‘appropriate’ for the UK Gambling Commission to hand Allwyn the licence when Russian-affiliated businesses and directors are facing sanctions.
Addressing Parliament at Prime Minister’s Questions this afternoon, Russell stated: “Camelot is one of the largest employers in Watford, and its employees have worked tirelessly to successfully run the National Lottery for decades. They play an important role in communities across the UK, many local communities and good causes, including in my constituency.”
He then asked the Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, stepping in for Prime Minister Boris Johnson: “So while I clearly declare an interest in the Gambling Commission’s decision yesterday not to appoint the next licence to Camelot, I do wonder, given the current situation in Ukraine, if my right honourable friend considered it appropriate, that the next licence holder as the operator of the National Lottery is known to have a joint venture with Gazprom?”
Komarek addressed media speculation of his business dealings with Gazprom and the Russian state earlier this month, stating that he is ‘a very public critic’ of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding that any portrayal of him other than as an opponent of the Russian regime shows “ignorance of my own personal experience of growing up under the repression of Soviet occupation.”
He stated that the Czech government asked his firm to maintain a 50/50 joint venture with Gazprom to ‘ensure an important Czech energy asset was not subject to full Russian control’.
The Chairman of Allwyn and parent company KKCG took to the firm’s website, writing: “The sad reality is that a party in the UK wishes to use the war in Ukraine as part of a distasteful and shameful attempt to discredit Allwyn’s team and bid to operate the National Lottery. This speaks to their character, not ours or mine.”
Responding to Russell’s line of questioning, Raab acknowledged Komarek’s response, noting that he is aware of the Allwyn owner’s opposition to Putin.
He remarked: “I understand that Allwyn’s owner Mr. Komarek, who has long criticised the Putin regime, is in discussions with the Czech Republic Government over its joint venture with Gazprom and removing its involvement.”