Sunday 26 March 2017

Camelot in the running to take over Lotto licence

UK operator among the potential bidders when it goes to tender

UK National Lottery operator Camelot may be interested in bidding for Ireland's Lotto licence when it goes to tender next year, the proceeds of which will help fund the new National Children's Hospital (NCH).

"Camelot is looking at ways to grow and diversify its lottery operations across the world by working in partnership with governments and therefore is always interested in considering different opportunities which arise.

"However, it is early days with regard to Ireland. The Government has only just announced its headline approach to the new licence and we won't be commenting further until we have more details of its plans for the National Lottery," a spokesman said.

The Government expects the majority of the €600m cost of the NCH will be raised through the sale of the Lotto licence, with the remainder of its funding coming from the €2bn allocated for capital spending in next year's Budget.

"All options are being explored on how to proceed with the sale of the lottery licence to maximise the return for the State. One option is extending the length of the licence to 25 years, with the operator receiving a percentage of the profit in return for managing the operation of the Lotto.

"We're not commenting on what the Government hopes to raise from the licence. Any figures that have been reported are speculation," a government spokeswoman said.

Last year, the National Lottery posted sales of €772m, of which €419.9m was spent on prizes, with €243.7m going to good causes. Costs accounted for the remaining €108.4m.

Other potential bidders for the Irish licence may include Lottomatica -- owner of global lottery software firm GTech and Italy's National Lottery licence -- and UK media baron Richard Desmond, who launched a health lottery there in September.

However, there are fears that any sale to a private operator may result in less money going to good causes.

Mr Desmond's health lottery drew criticism after its launch for contributing just above the minimum agreed allocation -- 20.3p in every £1 -- to good causes.

Lottomatica could not be reached for comment last night, while a spokesman for Mr Desmond did not return calls.

Meanwhile, Spain sought to float a 30 per cent stake in its National Lottery on its stock market, and tried to woo investors by offering more than 80 per cent of profits from the stake in dividends, according to news reports in September.

However, market volatility and the European debt crisis forced the Spanish government to halt its plans last month.

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