Throughout the Christmas season, Lottery Daily will be revisiting some of the biggest stories of the lottery business world from the past year. This edition will be looking at stories in the UK and Ireland.
History was made in the UK as it was announced that Camelot had lost its grip on the UK National Lottery, with the UK Gambling Commission‘s (UKGC) decision precipitating months of chaos and confusion as Allwyn‘s award of the fourth licence proved far from certain.
Meanwhile, the early months of 2022 saw bookmakers in Ireland stand up to the country’s ongoing gambling reform, with the Irish National Lottery at the centre of the debate.
Controversy shrouds Allwyn’s UK National Lottery licence win
The year started with excitement and uncertainty for one of the UK’s most prized possessions. A host of big-name firms from around Europe staked a claim to operate the UK National Lottery from 2024, but it was Czech-Republic based Allwyn, promising to ‘transform’ the lottery, that was named as the preferred applicant of the fourth National Lottery licence to break Camelot’s 30-year incumbency. However, that was far from the end of the episode.
Concerns started to emanate over potential links between Allwyn Chairman Karel Komarek and the Russian energy supplier Gazprom, but the biggest threat to Allwyn’s ascension to the throne came in the form of a legal challenge from Camelot in May, who accused the UKGC of changing the rules to favour Allwyn’s bid.
The Commission remained defiant, however, despite fears that a legal wrangle could delay the handover of operations and pose a threat to funds set aside for good causes. That confidence was rewarded in September when Camelot withdrew its appeal, paving the way for an official handover of operations. Allwyn was officially awarded the licence later in the month before securing €1.6bn in funding in November and, in the same month, acquiring Camelot UK Lotteries to further aid the National Lottery’s transition.
Irish bookmakers rally against lottery betting ban
Over in Ireland, calls to prohibit bets on the National Lottery sparked fierce criticism from bookmakers. The practice of betting on the outcome of the draw has been available since its formation in the 1980s but, in February, three senators sponsored an amendment to the National Lottery Act 2013 to prohibit bookmakers from providing such a service, citing the lack of “social dividend” of supporting good causes that comes from playing the National Lottery.
Barry Ward, Seanad Spokesperson on Justice, argued that it diverts money “away from good causes and into the belly of profit-making companies”. Furthermore, research from Premier Lotteries Ireland – the operator of the National Lottery – suggested the practice could be generating up to €570m for sportsbooks, and a ban on lottery betting could generate an additional €63m in funding for good causes.
Bookmakers rejected that notion, with one adding that it would represent “a loss in consumer choice, a net loss to revenue, and the potential loss of hundreds of jobs”.
A big blow to the bookmakers arrived in July when Seanad Éireann – the Irish government’s upper house – voted in favour of prohibiting bets on the Irish National Lottery.
The ‘ban on bookies’ never did take hold amid fears that it could contravene EU Law but as Ireland continues to advance gambling reform, it may well be an area that is revisited in the new year.