Richard Desmond has promised to bid for the licence to run the National Lottery after current operator, Camelot, indicated that it may consider not tendering again when the licence is next up for grabs.
Camelot chief executive Dianne Thompson yesterday said that the Health Lottery undermined the monopoly position of the National Lottery. Asked whether her organisation would consider not bidding again for the licence its held for nearly two decades, Thompson said: "Possibly not".
She argued that the arrival of the Health Lottery meant there is a lot more risk associated with running the National Lottery, so the rewards for running it should be greater.
Richard Desmond responded immediately, saying his organisation would bid for the licence and would raise £1bn more for good causes over the course of the licence. The licence is not up for renewal until 2023.
“I would be very happy to bid to run the National Lottery, which I will make bigger, better and British as well as far more cost-effective,” he said.
Speaking to gamblingcompliance.com, Thompson said that her organisation was frustrated with the Health Lottery, and at having to fight off the newcomer without government support. Camelot brought the Gambling Commission to the High Court over its decision to license the Health Lottery, but lost its case.
A spokesman for Camelot said that given there is ten years until the licence expires, no decisions have yet been made as to whether the company will re-bid.
"However, in an increasingly competitive marketplace, if those protections are weakened by default or are deliberately dismantled, then the whole basis of the bidding process and the licence itself would have to be completely re-written," he said.
"Why would any potential bidder spend over two years and millions of pounds, as Camelot did last time, going through a bid process for a licence that caps your profit at less than a penny in the pound when you can copy the example of others and raise less for charitable causes, pay less prize money to players, have unknown operating costs and make an undisclosed amount of profit?"
Last year, the National Lottery raised a record amount for good causes at £1.95bn. Camelot has run the National Lottery since it was launched, nearly 20 years ago. The Health Lottery launched in autumn of 2011 and has since raised £34m for health causes.
Desmond, chairman of Northern & Shell which owns the Health Lottery, said he would also reverse Camelot’s decision to increase the price of some lottery games to £2, and that he would not take a profit.
“I will raise more money for good causes and put all the profits back to support charities and good causes,” he said. “Unlike Camelot’s well-paid directors and Canadian bosses, I will not take a penny in remuneration."
Earlier this year, the Health Lottery pre-empted calls from other society lotteries in demanding that the minimum proportion of turnover that society lotteries return to good causes be lowered.