Concerns have been raised over a potential suspension of the National Lottery amid the UK Gambling Commission‘s legal wrangle with Camelot, according to The Telegraph.
Camelot has operated the National Lottery since 1994 but, earlier this year, Czech-based operator Allwyn was named as the preferred candidate of the fourth licence, a decision subsequently contested by the current incumbent.
Now, with a legal battle underway between Camelot and the UKGC, there are fears that Allwyn will be deprived of the sufficient “implementation” time of at least 19 months.
It would mark the first transfer from one company to another in its 30-year history, and it would require the implementation period to begin in June or July at the latest, in order for the handover to start on February 1, 2024.
The Commission is seeking to reverse a court decision to suspend the handover process pending the outcome of Camelot’s legal challenge.
In evidence to the High Court, John Tanner, the Commission’s Executive Director, said: “While the Commission is prevented from entering into the enabling agreement with Allwyn, both the Commission and Allwyn will suffer significant prejudice in being unable to commence important steps towards commencement of the fourth licence.
“This will almost certainly mean that, as a minimum, the National Lottery does not operate to its full potential at the start of the fourth licence term.
“Further, there is a real risk in these circumstances that there will, following the end of the third licence, be a period where the National Lottery does not operate at all.”
Tanner fears delays could jeopardise player’s prizes and money for good causes, resulting in £1bn less handed out due to a shortfall in revenues early on compounded by a loss of interest on the cash.
“There would be no contributions to good causes during any period where the National Lottery is not operating,” he said.
“The interests of participants would be jeopardised in that winners in National Lottery games under the third licence [held by Camelot] may be unable, after the expiry of that licence, to claim prizes.”
Tanner added: “If the Commission is unable to enter into the enabling agreement, it is almost inevitable that material, irreversible harm will be done to the National Lottery and good causes and there is a high risk of that harm becoming significant.”
According to the UKGC, Camelot and Allwyn will have to agree a process to honour “millions of outstanding prizes” and have ring fenced funds available to ensure no-one loses out.
However, Camelot has dismissed suggestions that a suspension of the National Lottery is looming, attesting that alternative measures have been submitted.
A Camelot spokesman told The Telegraph: “We have made clear in our representations to the court that we believe there is no threat of suspension of the National Lottery in the period between the third and fourth licences.
“Camelot has proposed a number of possible solutions to the court – including an interim licence which has already been used in similar circumstances – which remove any such risk.”