UK Gambling Commission’s (UKGC) senior leaders came out in support of the Fourth National Lottery licence preferred applicant Allwyn after MPs questioned the firm’s owner’s business dealings with Russian energy firm Gazprom.
Speaking at the DCMS select committee’s ‘What Next for the National Lottery?’ inquiry, UKGC’s CEO Andrew Rhodes and Executive Director John Tanner reiterated their message that they are satisfied with Allwyn’s dealings and that it is not at the risk of sanctions.
Press reports earlier this year placed Karel Komárek – owner of KKCG, the parent company of Allwyn – under the spotlight due to his joint venture with Gazprom to support the Czech Republic’s national energy infrastructure.
However, both Rhodes and Tanner cleared the air with MPs, noting that during the application process for the Fourth National Lottery licence competition, UKGC was positive that Allwyn passed all fit and proper tests.
Rhodes stated: “When the UK government imposed sanctions in relation to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we then assessed the applicants against those sanctions. So we undertake detailed work on all of an application, but also on the Camelot application and because Camelot is the holder of the third licence.
“There are requirements under Section Five of the National Lottery act as to who receives money from the National Lottery – there are beneficiaries. So there were no implications for the funding stream for the bids in relation to anything connected to sanctioned entities in relation to the Russian action.”
Tanner also cited Komarek’s intentions of divesting his shareholdings in the joint venture, noting that he remains in discussions with the Czech government in relation to this. He revealed that he expects movement on this ‘in the next few days’.
Allwyn itself denied that the Russian invasion of Ukraine would have any impact on its operations back in April, with a spokesperson noting: “The potential impact of sanctions is a standard risk factor that virtually every US-listed company with international operations is making in light of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
“As is self-evident to any fair-minded person who reads it, the inclusion of sanctions as a risk factor in our New York Stock Exchange listing presentation is a reflection of the current global climate, akin to the possible impacts of Covid-19, not an indication of a specific threat to Allwyn.”
With the backing of UKGC, Allwyn is on its way to becoming the licensee for the fourth license period. Last week, a court suspension on the formal beginning of the transfer was overturned, meaning the transition period can commence.
Despite this, UKGC is still facing legal action from Camelot, which is claiming against how it handled its duties managing the competition.