Czechmate? Sazka Remain Bullish About Wrestling National Lottery Licence from Camelot

Lotto Logo and 16+
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For the best part of 30 years, the National Lottery in the UK has been overseen by the specialist operator Camelot, and such has been their influence on the lotto draw that the machines used to pick the winning numbers even carry Medieval-inspired names.

But, in all senses of the word, Camelot could become a thing of the past when their licence to run the National Lottery runs out in 2023. There have been no shortage of applicants to take on the licensing – including Camelot themselves – but reportedly leading the way is a firm based in the Czech Republic.

The Sazka Group, who already run major lotteries in their home country as well as the likes of Italy, Austria and Greece, will bid to become the first operator other than the Camelot Group to manage the UK draw since 1994. Since the draw’s inception, some 8.5 million players have stopped purchasing tickets on a weekly basis, and Sazka believe that the time is right for change.

As well as overseeing a brand new marketing and digital strategy, Sazka have also expressed their desire to raise the minimum age to play the UK lottery to 18 – currently you have to be at least 16 to play under Camelot’s rules. It’s possible that the Czech firm’s approach will fall more closely in line with the government’s stance, who are currently considering gambling law reform designed to tighten restrictions.

Although there have been plenty of other applicants for the licence, it’s as yet unknown as to who these might be – it has been reported that Richard Desmond, the media mogul that runs the Health Lottery, has expressed an interest. The Virgin Group had also been mentioned in despatches, although Richard Branson has apparently pulled the plug on that.

The UK Gambling Commission oversees the application process, and they will recommend an operator to the government, who can choose to accept or reject the application.

Bringing Out the Big Guns

Sazka Logo
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It’s fair to say that the Sazka Group have brought in some big names in their pursuit of the National Lottery contract.

Their advisory group is headed by Sir Keith Mills, who was part of the organising committee for the London Olympics in 2012, and he has now been joined by Charles Garland, who was a key figure in the Syco company founded by Simon Cowell and Sony Music.

Garland was – for better or worse – responsible for bringing The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent to the small screen, and he has worked alongside David and Victoria Beckham in enhancing their brand globally. He also served on the board of Comic Relief for five years.

Speaking about his appointment, Garland said:

“The National Lottery was once a staple of British entertainment, but in the era of Netflix, podcasts and video games, it needs to adapt to changes in customer behaviour.

“The challenge facing this institution is to recapture that sense of excitement that the Saturday night draw once generated, bringing back those players who we believe turned away from the lottery in favour of new and more innovative entertainment platforms.

“We are working on proposals that will make the British public fall back in love with this vital institution.”

Joining Garland and Mills on the advisory committee are Justin King, the former chief executive of Sainsbury’s, and Brent Hoberman, who created Lastminute.com.