The U.K. National Lottery is up for grabs. Currently, Camelot U.K. Lotteries Ltd. runs the show, and has since 1994. However, its license expires in 2023, and it’s time for the U.K. Gambling Commission (UKGC) to determine if someone else should be given the reins. It launched an application period last August, ready to see who would be the best fit to receive a new ten-year concession. Among those vying for the rights is Czechoslovakia-based Sazka Group, and the company is optimistic about its chances.
According to Justin King, who serves as an advisor to the company in its efforts to be awarded the National Lottery license, Sazka is in a great position to win. It already operates lotteries in Austria, Czech Republic, Greece and Italy and adding the U.K. to its portfolio would support its authority on the subject of lotteries. King is one of three advisors working with the company, alongside London 2012 Olympics deputy chairman Sir Keith Mills and lastminute.com founder Brent Hoberman.
King explained to The Mail this weekend that Sazka expects to be able to integrate its knowledge and experience in lottery management to facilitate more growth of the National Lottery. The company believes it can attract more local players to independent stores, which would help the latter regain some of the ground they’ve lost to other gambling services. He explained to The Mail, “The lottery was billed as one of the saving graces of the independent corner shop – it would be a footfall driver, a reason for regular visits, which perhaps those corner shops have lost.”
Sazka will first need to avoid any fallout related to possible ties to pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. The Mail points out that Apollo Global Management, which has also had its eye on several gaming-based companies, is helping fund Sazka’s bid for the National Lottery. The company is run by Leon Black, who reportedly had ties to Epstein, who reportedly killed himself in prison in 2019. Black is stepping down as Apollo’s CEO this summer as a result of the connection to Epstein.
King likes a good challenge, which is why he accepted the role of advisor to Sazka. He added to The Mail, “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think that there was a real possibility that a change could happen and Sazka wasn’t the horse to back. I don’t like losing and I think they have got an incredibly strong case to make. Clearly the Gambling Commission are running a process where change is a real prospect. I think if you look at the history of the lottery perhaps that’s not always been true in the bidding process and Sazka make a compelling case for being the next organisation to be trusted with the lottery.”