News, Culture & Society

National Lottery tickets could be halved to just £1 under new Czech group’s takeover plans

The Czech lottery operator that is set to take over the running of the National Lottery could slash the price of tickets to £1 in a huge shake-up of the popular game.

Allwyn, which runs lotteries in Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece and Italy, has been named the ‘preferred applicant’ to take over the venture in 2024.  

The firm, previously known as Sazka before it rebranded with an anglicised name during the bidding process, has pledged to double charitable donations to £38billion over the next decade.  

Allwyn has proposed halving ticket prices to £1 part of its bid to take over the running of the National Lottery, after Camelot doubled the cost of entry to £2 in 2013. It could launch two Saturday night draws in a bid to increase its player pool. 

While punters will welcome cheaper costs, Allwyn, who expects to be named the official operator of the National Lottery once the 10-day cooling off period expires, will hope halving ticket prices can spur on more players to participate.

Figures released by Camelot paint a rosy picture at the company, recording 62 per cent growth in sales since 2009, while 60 per cent of UK adults regularly play National Lottery games.  

Despite this, the Hertfordshire-based group lost out to its Czech rivals during the bidding process. MailOnline understands the Allwyn bid was a technology-first approach that highlighted a commitment to furthering its spend on good causes.

Camelot is now expected to take the decision to the courts after reportedly appointing one of Britain’s top QCs, Lord Pannick, to lead its legal fight.

Any legal challenge is expected to be predicated on the ‘scorecard’ system used for grading the four National Lottery bidders, the Times reports. 

Czech group Allwyn, which runs lotteries in Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece and Italy, has been named the ‘preferred applicant’ to take over the National Lottery in 2024

Hertfordshire-based Camelot (above) lost out to its Czech rivals during the bidding process after holding the licence for 28 years. MailOnline understands the Allwyn bid was a tech-first approach that highlighted a commitment to furthering its spend on good cause

Hertfordshire-based Camelot (above) lost out to its Czech rivals during the bidding process after holding the licence for 28 years. MailOnline understands the Allwyn bid was a tech-first approach that highlighted a commitment to furthering its spend on good cause

Camelot chief executive Nigel Railton (pictured above in 2017) said the company was 'incredibly disappointed' and would be considering its options

Camelot chief executive Nigel Railton (pictured above in 2017) said the company was ‘incredibly disappointed’ and would be considering its options

Allwyn is said to have spent £9million on its bid to become the next lottery operator, and has even appointed Lord Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, to its board as a non-executive director.

While the company has promised to transform the National Lottery, Allwyn’s bid has been cloaked in secrecy and was far from plain-sailing. 

But it was less controversial compared to the second National Lottery licence renewal in 2000, when Camelot were initially disqualified from the bidding process and the licence was awarded to Richard Branson’s Virgin Group People’s Lottery.

Camelot challenged the decision in the High Court, winning their case and being re-awarded the National Lottery licence a year later. Branson would describe the decision as ‘cowardly’. 

Throughout its 28-year tenure, Camelot has been praised for its contributions to good causes, but has also faced its fair share of criticism.

Julian Knight, chair of the House of Commons culture committee, said: ‘Camelot has had this now over two decades and done a pretty good job in the main but there were some real concerns during the last lottery licence that they veered toward games that didn’t return as much to good causes.’ 

It doubled the cost of a National Lottery ticket to £2 in 2013, before watching sales plunge almost 10 per cent after the odds on the Lotto were tweaked three years later. 

Camelot’s 30-year hold over the National Lottery

Camelot has also boasted that it has created more than 6,300 millionaires or multi-millionaires since the launch in 1994. Pictured: Holly Saul and Ben Lowther, from Cambridge, who won £1m in a EuroMillions draw

Camelot has also boasted that it has created more than 6,300 millionaires or multi-millionaires since the launch in 1994. Pictured: Holly Saul and Ben Lowther, from Cambridge, who won £1m in a EuroMillions draw 

When Prime Minister John Major launched ticket sales for a new National Lottery in November 1994, he said Britain would be ‘a lot richer because of the lottery.’

‘It is in every sense the people’s lottery.’

Since then hundreds of millions of ticket stubs have been bought at shop kiosks and online, and some lucky 6,300 people have become overnight millionaires or multi-millionaires.

The lottery was a success from the start, with more than 20 million tuning in to watch the first ever draw on November 19, presented by Noel Edmonds.

The first Lotto numbers drawn were 30, 3, 5, 44, 14 and 22, the bonus was 10, and seven jackpot winners shared a prize of £5,874,778.

With a huge audience to entertain, the lottery attracted star talent to take part in draws, including the likes of comedian Bob Monkhouse, Monty Python star John Cleese and model Ulrika Jonsson.

Constant attempts to reinvent the offering for the primetime Saturday slot in the run-up to draw led 20 game shows over the years, such as Dale Winton’s In It to Win It and Brian Conley’s We’ve Got Your Number where contestants answered questions for cash prizes.

A second lottery draw, Thunderball, was introduced by Camelot on 12 June 1999.

Throughout the early 2000s and 2010s, Camelot saw off attempts to take over their licence and was renewed or extended four times until 2024. Its 28-year hold on the UK lottery has led Camelot to be described as one of the most efficient and robust lotteries in Europe, but has also meant criticism.

The excitement and novelty value of the weekly lottery draw is not what it used to be, and the game shows have not featured since 2017.

In 2018, Camelot was criticised over a falling amount of money raised for good causes, with a National Audit Office report finding that its profits had risen by 122% over seven years while returns to good causes only grew by 2%.

MPs have also criticised Camelot’s a move towards app-based games rather than traditional draws, claiming it risks worsening problem gambling and reducing the amounts given to good causes. 

More recently, Camelot has responded to declining sales by launching new products, such as Euromillions, with huge rollover jackpots, and Set for Life. where players can win £10,000 a month for 30 years.

It has also sought out new markets with scratchcards and online instant win games, which give players a much greater chance of winning small amounts of cash.

These games have proved popular, but because more money is handed out in prizes, a smaller percentage of the ticket price goes to good causes.

A National Audit Office report compared the company’s profits and charitable donations to its lottery sales, which had increased by more than a quarter (27 per cent) from 2009-10 to 2016-17.

It found that Camelot’s contributions to good causes rose by 2 per cent, while the eye-watering profits it posted for shareholders at the Canadian pension fund, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, grew by 122 per cent – though this was still just 1 per cent of the company’s total sales.

The national watchdog later fined Camelot over mobile app glitches, and Camelot faced fresh scrutiny when it was revealed it had paid out £2.5million in prize money to a fraudster three years ago. 

Camelot chief executive Nigel Railton said yesterday: ‘I’m incredibly disappointed by today’s announcement, but we still have a critical job to do as our current licence runs until February 2024.

‘We’re now carefully reviewing the Gambling Commission’s evaluation before deciding on our next steps.’

The gambling commission said Allwyn had committed to invest in the National Lottery to deliver growth and innovation across the various products and channels and increasing contributions to good causes. 

As part of its bid Allwyn pledged to donate £38 billion to good causes over the next decade, almost equivalent to the £45 billion Camelot raised since it began running the national lottery in 1994.

It has also suggested having two draws on one night, and cutting the cost of a ticket to £1 for punters. 

Justin King, Allwyn UK’s chairman and former boss of supermarket Sainsbury’s, said: ‘The National Lottery is a vital British institution and we’re focused on ensuring it plays an even bigger part in society by increasing participation, improving safeguards, and giving back more to good causes.’ 

Allwyn responded to the news by saying the company would want to ‘breathe fresh life into The National Lottery’.   

In a statement the company said: ‘We welcome today’s statement by the Gambling Commission that we have been selected as the preferred applicant for the fourth National Lottery licence.

‘Our proposal was judged to be the best way of growing returns to good causes by revitalising the National Lottery in a safe and sustainable way.

‘The appointment of Allwyn will breathe fresh life into the National Lottery.’ 

The Gambling Commission added in a statement on Tuesday: ‘The selection of Allwyn as preferred applicant follows a fair, open and robust competition which received four applications at the final stage.

‘This is the highest number of applications since the first National Lottery licence was awarded in 1994. 

‘Allwyn has committed to investment in the National Lottery that is expected to deliver growth and innovation across the National Lottery’s products and channels, resulting in increased contributions to good causes, subject to the protection of participants and propriety.

‘The Gambling Commission is content that all applicants are fit and proper to operate the National Lottery.

‘Recognising our role as a responsible regulator we are also satisfied that no application is impacted by sanctions related to the conflict in Ukraine.’  

The gambling licence includes all games such as Lotto, EuroMillions – which is run by different operators in each country – and the Thunderball. 

As politicians raised concerns about the proportion of Camelot’s revenues that have gone to good causes, the company’s profits soared from £29 million in 2010 to £78 million in 2020.

But Camelot shot back and said annual returns to good causes were now over £500 million higher than they were at the start of the third Lottery licence in 2009. 

Gambling Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes said: ‘In its lifetime, the National Lottery has raised more than £45 billion for good causes and is rightly seen as a great national asset.

‘Our priority was to run a competition that would attract a strong field of candidates. Having received the most applications since 1994, it is clear that we’ve achieved just that.

‘I am confident that the success of the competition will lead to a highly successful fourth licence – one that maximises returns to good causes, promotes innovation, delivers against our statutory duties, and which ultimately protects the unique status of the National Lottery.

‘We look forward to working with all parties to ensure a smooth handover.’

As part of its bid, Allwyn is also said to have suggested having two National Lottery draws on Saturday night, and cutting the cost of a ticket to £1 for punters [File picture]

As part of its bid, Allwyn is also said to have suggested having two National Lottery draws on Saturday night, and cutting the cost of a ticket to £1 for punters [File picture]

The lottery was a success from the start, with more than 20 million tuning in to watch the first ever draw on November 19, presented by Noel Edmonds

The lottery was a success from the start, with more than 20 million tuning in to watch the first ever draw on November 19, presented by Noel Edmonds

Camelot has operated the National Lottery since its launch in 1994, and took over the nation’s screens with televised draws hosted by the likes of Dale Winton, Anthea Turner and John Cleese.

The company fought off seven competing bidders to win the first contract and, within 24 weeks, had placed terminals in 10,000 retailers.

The televised lottery draw had a peak audience of more than 20 million for the first ever result in 1994 presented by Noel Edmonds.

However, at the end of the first licence period in 2001, the novelty had begun to wear off within the public. 

Controversy also emerged four years earlier when it was revealed three senior Camelot officials had been awarded six-figure bonus payments.

Bidding for the third term resulted in a High Court fight, led by Camelot, after the licence was initially handed over to Richard Branson’s People’s Lottery.

Camelot won the bid for a third term in 2007, when it fought off competition from Indian lottery group Sugal & Damani – the only other company to make a bid.

The Gambling Commission then awarded Camelot a ten-year licence to run the National Lottery from 2009, before this was extended by a further four years in March 2012.

But after more than 20 years of running the lottery, Camelot has now lost out to Czech operator Allwyn.

From blowouts to benefits: Brits who scooped the jackpot on the lottery and Euromillions then blew it on boob jobs, bum lifts, drink, drugs and brothels 

Callie Rogers

Callie Rogers is pictured after her £1.87million lottery win in 2013

Callie Rogers is pictured after her £1.87million lottery win in 2013

Callie Rogers was just 16 when she won a £1.87million lottery jackpot while working as a shop assistant on £3.60 an hour in 2003.

But the mother-of-four from Flimby in Cumbria has suffered a spectacular fall from grace since and is now on benefits after blowing the whole amount.

Miss Rogers spent thousands on wild parties, three breast enhancements and designer clothing, while also giving away large amounts to her family and friends.

But she was also targeted by people who took cash off her, suffered a string of failed relationships and was attacked by two women on a night out.

Then in March it emerged Miss Rogers had been pepper-sprayed by police following a car crash when her 4×4 veered off the road late at night.

She then failed a drugs test and was given a 22-month driving ban following the incident near her boyfriend Jason Fearon’s home in Crosby, Merseyside.

Callie Rogers, pictured in recent years

Callie Rogers has suffered a fall from grace since her win

Callie Rogers, pictured in recent years, has suffered a fall from grace since her win and is now on benefits after blowing her winnings

Jane Park

Jane Park was 17 when she won big on the Euromillions in 2013

Jane Park was 17 when she won big on the Euromillions in 2013

Jane Park was just 17 when she won £1million after getting lucky with her first-ever Euromillions ticket in 2013.

She has repeatedly stated winning the Euromillions prize ruined her life and even threatened to sue lottery operators Camelot for negligence, claiming someone her age shouldn’t have been allowed to win.

She has confessed that it was only the advice of family members which stopped her going bust after she went on a spending spree.

The jackpot winner paid for a breast enlargement, Brazilian bottom lift and splashed out on a string of luxury holidays and fashion accessories.

In 2019, she revealed she was making money by selling racy topless pictures of herself on subscription site OnlyFans.

In January she said she had moved to Dubai for ‘business’ reasons and this would be a permanent move, but she returned to Scotland in April. 

Also last year, she has had a second Brazilian bottom lift in Turkey after her original surgery in 2017 was botched and left her in hospital with suspected sepsis. 

Jane Park pictured in more recent years

Jane Park has sold topless pictures of herself

Jane Park pictured in more recent years. In 2019, she revealed she was making money by selling racy topless pictures on OnlyFans

Michael Carroll

Michael Carroll scooped the jackpot in 2002 from a £1 ticket

Michael Carroll scooped the jackpot in 2002 from a £1 ticket

‘Lotto lout’ Michael Carroll blew his £9.7million jackpot on drink, drugs and brothels in a decade – describing it as ‘the best ten years of my life for a pound’.

But he now works seven days a week as a £10-an-hour coalman in Moray, Scotland, after having to start again.

Mr Carroll bought the £1 ticket when he was aged 19 and was working as a binman in Norfolk, but before long he was doing cocaine and drinking huge amounts of vodka before he had even got out of bed.

He gave £4million to friends and family, including his aunt and uncle who raised him following his father’s death when he was aged only 10, but spent the rest on an extreme lifestyle, including three homes and racing cars.

His marriage to wife Sandra Aitken ended after she accused him of sleeping with vice girls – and Mr Carroll has claimed to have bedded some 4,000 women.

He appeared in court more than 30 times, but was handed an ASBO for terrorising his neighbours and jailed for five months in 2004 after failing to comply with a drug treatment order imposed as part of a sentence for cocaine possession.

His accountant warned him in 2005 that he was down to his last million, and in February 2006 he was jailed for nine months for affray.

By 2013, he was declared bankrupt and found himself back on Jobseeker’s Allowance – and he even moved into a hotel for homeless people for three months.

He then worked at the Walkers biscuit factory in Aberlour, before getting a licence to work in an abattoir, but now works as a coal miner and lives in a modest rented flat.

Speaking to the Mirror in 2019, he said: ‘I don’t look back with any regrets, that’s for sure. It was ten years of fun for a pound, you can’t go wrong with that.

‘I wouldn’t want to turn the clock back. But I live a good, free lifestyle now and I’m happier because I’ve got my life back.’

Carroll previously described how he was a 'full-blown alcoholic' and drank two bottles of vodka a day

Carroll previously described how he was a ‘full-blown alcoholic’ and drank two bottles of vodka a day

 Margaret Loughrey

Margaret Loughrey, 56, was living on benefits of just £58-a-week when she scooped a £27m EuroMillions prize eight years ago, but famously said it had ‘destroyed her’. 

Her good luck saw Ms Loughrey dubbed ‘Maggie Millions’ and allowed her to buy a property empire including a £125,000 bungalow, a pub and a former mill turned leisure centre – and give at least half away to good causes.

But she was sectioned four months after the draw and later described life as a multi-millionaire as ‘If there is a hell, I have been in it. It has been that bad’.

Ms Loughrey was found dead by police at her £125,000 home in Strabane, Northern Ireland, last September. 

When she won the lottery, Margaret Loughrey had been at the Job Centre living on benefits of just £58-a-week and got the ticket on a whim

When she won the lottery, Margaret Loughrey had been at the Job Centre living on benefits of just £58-a-week and got the ticket on a whim

The lottery win brought Ms Loughrey nothing but trouble and she vowed to spread her good fortune around.

She said at the time: ‘No point having £27m and being lonely. That can’t make me happy, that can only make me happy that everybody else’s happy and so far everybody is absolutely delighted.’

But within four months of the win she was sectioned before winning her appeal against the mental health ruling.

She bought Herdman’s Mill in Sion Mills in 2014, but it was targeted by fires and vandalism.

Ms Loughrey locked horns with Sion Mills Cricket Club and at one point locked them out of their pitch on the grounds. They eventually came to an agreement they could use it and had done since without incident.

Then in 2015 Ms Loughrey was ordered to do 150 hours of community service after being convicted of assaulting a taxi driver.

The billionaire set to take over the National Lottery: Czech oil magnate Karel Komarek made his money in the Soviet Union, was accused of a ‘James Bond plot’ and probed over Kremlin links (and has a VERY glamorous wife) 

By Jacob Thorburn for MailOnline 

His company has hit the jackpot and will take over the lucrative National Lottery licence from 2024, but who is the £6billion Czech oil tycoon behind the venture?

Karel Komarek celebrated his 53rd birthday in style yesterday after his firm Allwyn was named the National Lottery’s ‘preferred partner’, but his success story begins amid the fall of the Soviet Union 33years ago in Hodonín, Czech Republic. 

Komarek’s father lent his then 20-year-old son $10,000 (£7,634) to help him set-up an industrial parts business that eventually blossomed into KKCG, an oil and gas giant that has since grown into a £5billion empire.

By 2012, KKCG had diversified its portfolio and took over Sazka, the Czech lottery operator. Over the last 10 years, Komarek’s company has bought stakes or run successful lotteries across the continent in Austria, Italy, Greece and Cyprus.   

From his humble beginnings, Karel, his glamorous wife Stepanka, and their four children now count themselves among Europe’s wealthiest families with homes across the continent and America. 

In 2002, he sued Scottish oil company Ramco after the firm commissioned a report, written by former British intelligence officers, ‘implicated the claimants in corruption and in one instance, in murder’ and compared it to a James Bond-esque plot. 

The allegations never made it to court as the trial collapsed. A spokesperson for Komarek said the businessman had been the subject of ‘a malicious accusation that was quickly proven to be false at the time’. 

But as Allwyn closed in on its successful lottery bid, Karel’s links to Russia came under greater scrutiny and the Gambling Commission said the Czech billionaire probed over his links Russian-state energy giant Gazprom, which is controlled by the Kremlin, would not be hit by the UK’s sanctions package.

Despite retaining a gas storage joint venture with the Russian energy firm, Komarek has distanced himself from any close links to the Kremlin and slammed Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.   

Putin critic: Czech businessman Karel Komarek (pictured with wife Stepanka) is set to take over the highly lucrative National Lottery licence with a plan to slash ticket prices from £2 to £1

Putin critic: Czech businessman Karel Komarek (pictured with wife Stepanka) is set to take over the highly lucrative National Lottery licence with a plan to slash ticket prices from £2 to £1

Komarek's links to Russia have come under greater scrutiny and the Gambling Commission said the Czech billionaire probed over his links energy giant Gazprom, which is majority controlled by the Kremlin, would not be hit by the UK's sanctions package

Komarek’s links to Russia have come under greater scrutiny and the Gambling Commission said the Czech billionaire probed over his links energy giant Gazprom, which is majority controlled by the Kremlin, would not be hit by the UK’s sanctions package

Officials have said Czech lottery operator Allwyn is now the ‘preferred applicant’ to take over the venture from Camelot in 2024.

The firm, previously known as Sazka before it rebranded with an anglicised name during the bidding process, has pledged to double charitable donations to £38billion over the next decade.  

But its owner Karel Komarek has faced scrutiny over his links with Russian-state energy giant Gazprom, which is controlled by the Kremlin.

His company MND (Moravske Naftove Doly) formed a joint venture with Gazprom to build an underground gas storage facility in his home country, which opened in Moravia in 2016.

For several years, MND also held a stake in a Czech gas importer that is majority-owned by subsidiaries of Gazprom, although it no longer does so.

Downing Street has called on firms to think about their connections to Russian firms even if they have not been sanctioned. 

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Tory MP Dean Russell raised concerns over the appointment of Allwyn.

He asked Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab: ‘I do wonder, given the current situation in Ukraine, if (Mr Raab) considers it appropriate that the next licensee of the operator of the National Lottery is known to have a joint venture with Gazprom?’

Mr Raab replied: ‘I understand that Allwyn’s owner Mr Komarek, who has long criticised the Putin regime, is in discussions with the Czech Republic government regarding the joint venture with Gazprom and removing its involvement.’

In a 2016 press release, Komarek said: ‘Gazprom is our strategic partner. We highly appreciate the opportunity of creating a joint venture with one of the global energy majors. 

‘We see it as a kind of a reward for many years of professional performance in the oil and gas sector. In future we are planning new joint projects not only in the Czech Republic, but also in Europe and the Russian Federation.’ 

Komarek has also criticised Putin, writing last week: ‘I strongly condemn the act of war which Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation have undertaken.

‘The EU and Nato must show unity against this unprovoked aggression, and we must protect the democratic values upon which our societies were built.

‘I am confident that world powers and all democratic nations will impose the strongest possible sanctions on Russia.’

Gazprom, which is majority-owned by the Russian state, has been targeted in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. Uefa, European football’s governing body, has ended its sponsorship deals with it for the Champions League and Euro 2024. German club Schalke is also cancelling its deal with Gazprom. 

Mr Komarek, who is worth £5.9billion according to Forbes, started his business in the 1990s in the oil and gas sector.

He moved into lotteries a decade ago when he bought the firm that runs draws in the Czech Republic. 

The Gambling Commission said it was ‘satisfied that no application is impacted by sanctions related to the conflict in Ukraine’.  

And in an open letter earlier this month, Mr Komarek condemned Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and said he was discussing the removal of Gazprom from the joint venture.    

Camelot will to lose its licence to operate the National Lottery after almost 30 years, as the Gambling Commission named a rival firm to take over. Pictured: Frank Bruno, Bob Monkhouse and Mystic Meg celebrate the lottery's 100th jackpot in 1996

Camelot will to lose its licence to operate the National Lottery after almost 30 years, as the Gambling Commission named a rival firm to take over. Pictured: Frank Bruno, Bob Monkhouse and Mystic Meg celebrate the lottery’s 100th jackpot in 1996

The lottery was a success from the start, with more than 20 million tuning in to watch the first ever draw on November 19, presented by Noel Edmonds

The lottery was a success from the start, with more than 20 million tuning in to watch the first ever draw on November 19, presented by Noel Edmonds

When Prime Minister John Major launched ticket sales for a new National Lottery in November 1994, he said Britain would be 'a lot richer because of the lottery.' It is in every sense the people's lottery.' Pictured, Major choosing his numbers for the National Lottery at a newsagents in Victoria in November 1994

When Prime Minister John Major launched ticket sales for a new National Lottery in November 1994, he said Britain would be ‘a lot richer because of the lottery.’ It is in every sense the people’s lottery.’ Pictured, Major choosing his numbers for the National Lottery at a newsagents in Victoria in November 1994

Pictured: Broadcaster Chris Evans, who hosted the National Lottery draw in 2013

Pictured: Broadcaster Chris Evans, who hosted the National Lottery draw in 2013

Camelot’s controversial National Lottery history 

1994: Camelot has operated the National Lottery since its launch in 1994, and took over the nation’s screens with televised draws hosted by the likes of Dale Winton, Anthea Turner and John Cleese.

The company fought off seven competing bidders to win the first contract and, within 24 weeks, had placed terminals in 10,000 retailers.

The televised lottery draw had a peak audience of more than 20 million for the first ever result in 1994 presented by Noel Edmonds.

2001: At the end of the first licence period in 2001, the novelty had begun to wear off within the public. 

Controversy also emerged four years earlier when it was revealed three senior Camelot officials had been awarded six-figure bonus payments.

Bidding for the second term resulted in a High Court fight, led by Camelot, after the licence was initially handed over to Richard Branson’s People’s Lottery. 

2007: Camelot won the bid for a third term in 2007, when it fought off competition from Indian lottery group Sugal & Damani – the only other company to have made a bid.

2009: The Gambling Commission then awarded Camelot a ten-year licence to run the National Lottery from 2009

2012: The Gambling Commision extended Camelot’s licence for a further four years in 2012. 

Camelot has operated the National Lottery since its launch in 1994, and took over the nation’s screens with televised draws hosted by the likes of Dale Winton, Anthea Turner and John Cleese.

The company fought off seven competing bidders to win the first contract and, within 24 weeks, had placed terminals in 10,000 retailers.

The televised lottery draw had a peak audience of more than 20 million for the first ever result in 1994 presented by Noel Edmonds.

However, at the end of the first licence period in 2001, the novelty had begun to wear off within the public. 

Controversy also emerged four years earlier when it was revealed three senior Camelot officials had been awarded six-figure bonus payments.

Bidding for the third term resulted in a High Court fight, led by Camelot, after the licence was initially handed over to Richard Branson’s People’s Lottery.

Camelot won the bid for a third term in 2007, when it fought off competition from Indian lottery group Sugal & Damani – the only other company to make a bid.

The Gambling Commission then awarded Camelot a ten-year licence to run the National Lottery from 2009, before this was extended by a further four years in March 2012.

But after more than 20 years of running the lottery, Camelot has lost out to Komarek’s Czech lottery operator Allwyn. 

The group is said to have spent £9million on its bid to become the next lottery operator, and even appointed double Olympic-gold winner Lord Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics, to its board.

It also counted Sir Keith Mills, a close ally of Boris Johnson and deputy chairman of the 2012 London Olympics, among its contingent.

Justin King, a former Sainsbury’s chief exectuive, Brent Hoberman, founder of Lastminute.com, and Charles Garland, the music producer who helped launch the careers of S Club 7 and hugely successful TV hit, The X Factor, were also key to Allwyn’s successful bid. 

The Gambling Commission said Allwyn had committed to invest in the National Lottery to deliver growth and innovation across the various products and channels and increasing contributions to good causes. 

As part of its bid Allwyn pledged to donate £38 billion to good causes over the next decade, almost equivalent to the £45 billion Camelot raised since it began running the national lottery in 1994.

Allwyn is said to have spent £9million on its bid to become the next lottery operator, and has even appointed Lord Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, to its board as a non-executive director

Allwyn is said to have spent £9million on its bid to become the next lottery operator, and has even appointed Lord Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, to its board as a non-executive director

Baroness Karren Brady

Former Daily Express owner and Health Lottery runner Richard Desmond

Applicants for the National Lottery licence have included Silas, the Italian lottery operator which has Baroness Karren Brady as an advisor, and former Daily Express owner and Health Lottery runner Richard Desmond who launched a bid through his Northern and Shell company

Billionaire with links to Russian energy giant Gazprom frontrunner in National Lottery bid

Karel Komarek is all but confirmed as the successful applicant for the highly lucrative licence with a plan to slash ticket prices from £2 to £1.

But the Czech businessman, who runs Europe’s largest lottery operator, Allwyn, faces scrutiny over his links with Gazprom, which is controlled by the Kremlin.

His company MND (Moravske Naftove Doly) formed a joint venture with Gazprom to build an underground gas storage facility in his home country, which opened in Moravia in 2016.

For several years, MND also held a stake in a Czech gas importer that is majority-owned by subsidiaries of Gazprom, although it no longer does so.

Downing Street has called on firms to think about their connections to Russian firms even if they have not been sanctioned.  

In a press release, Komarek said: ‘Gazprom is our strategic partner. We highly appreciate the opportunity of creating a joint venture with one of the global energy majors. We see it as a kind of a reward for many years of professional performance in the oil and gas sector. In future we are planning new joint projects not only in the Czech Republic, but also in Europe and the Russian Federation.’ 

Komarek has also criticised Putin, writing last week: ‘I strongly condemn the act of war which Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation have undertaken.

‘The EU and Nato must show unity against this unprovoked aggression, and we must protect the democratic values upon which our societies were built.

‘I am confident that world powers and all democratic nations will impose the strongest possible sanctions on Russia.’

Mr Komarek, who is worth £5.9billion according to Forbes, started his business in the 1990s in the oil and gas sector.

He moved into lotteries a decade ago when he bought the firm that runs draws in the Czech Republic. 

It has also proposed reducing ticket prices from £2 to £1 and having two draws on one night. 

Media tycoon Richard Desmond, who previous owned the Daily Express and Channel 5, was also an applicant.  

The Gambling Commission said: ‘The selection of Allwyn as preferred applicant follows a fair, open and robust competition which received four applications at the final stage.

‘This is the highest number of applications since the first National Lottery licence was awarded in 1994. 

‘Allwyn has committed to investment in the National Lottery that is expected to deliver growth and innovation across the National Lottery’s products and channels, resulting in increased contributions to good causes, subject to the protection of participants and propriety.

‘The Gambling Commission is content that all applicants are fit and proper to operate the National Lottery.

‘Recognising our role as a responsible regulator we are also satisfied that no application is impacted by sanctions related to the conflict in Ukraine.’

Allwyn responded to the news by saying the company would want to ‘breathe fresh life into The National Lottery’.  

Gambling Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes said: ‘In its lifetime, the National Lottery has raised more than £45billion for good causes and is rightly seen as a great national asset.

‘Our priority was to run a competition that would attract a strong field of candidates. Having received the most applications since 1994, it is clear that we’ve achieved just that.

‘I am confident that the success of the competition will lead to a highly successful fourth licence – one that maximises returns to good causes, promotes innovation, delivers against our statutory duties, and which ultimately protects the unique status of the National Lottery.

‘We look forward to working with all parties to ensure a smooth handover.’

Allwyn said: ‘We welcome today’s statement by the Gambling Commission that we have been selected as the preferred applicant for the fourth National Lottery licence.

‘Our proposal was judged to be the best way of growing returns to good causes by revitalising the National Lottery in a safe and sustainable way.

‘The appointment of Allwyn will breathe fresh life into the National Lottery.’

Camelot chief executive Nigel Railton said: ‘I’m incredibly disappointed by today’s announcement, but we still have a critical job to do – as our current licence runs until February 2024.

‘We’re now carefully reviewing the Gambling Commission’s evaluation before deciding on our next steps.’

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk