Billionaire with Russian links wins deal to run UK National Lottery

The Gambling Commission has selected Allwyn, owned by Czech tycoon Karel Komarek, as the ‘preferred contractor’ to operate the National Lottery license from 2024. The decision is a blow to Camelot.

Karel Komarek with his wife těpánka Komárková
Karel Komarek with his wife těpánka Komárková

A billionaire with business links to Russian energy giant Gazprom will be given control of Britain’s National Lottery.

The Gambling Commission has selected Allwyn, owned by Czech tycoon Karel Komarek, as the “preferred contractor” to operate the lottery license from 2024.

The decision is a blow to Camelot, which has run the National Lottery since its launch in 1994, and chief executive Nigel Railton said it was considering “next steps”.

Due to the confidential nature of the bidding process, Allwyn has yet to reveal much about what changes players and sellers can expect. But reports say they pledge £38bn to good causes over 10 years, halve ticket prices to £1 and have two draws per night.

Elsewhere in Europe, Allwyn focuses on selling online. It advertises “gift cards” instead of scratch cards.

It is also known to use algorithms to predict and prevent problem gambling, which may have impressed the Gambling Commission.

Mr. Komarek made most of his fortune from oil and gas, but always wanted to stay away Russia in the middle of the war in Ukraine.

This decision is a blow to Camelot


AFP via Getty Images)

In an open letter in early March, he condemned Russia’s “brutal” invasion. He said he decided to sell his property in Russia many years ago.

However, his company still shares ownership with Gazprom a gas storage facility in the Czech Republic.

Mr. Komarek explained: “This joint venture [joint venture] was maintained, at the request of the Czech Government, to ensure that an important Czech energy asset was not subject to full Russian control. There are very few options for a complete divestment from Russian gas in Eastern Europe.”

Gazprom, majority owned by the Russian state, was punished for invading Ukraine. The Gambling Commission insists it is “satisfied that no applications have been affected by the sanctions related to the conflict”.

Entrepreneur, Mr. Komarek, 52, started selling pipes and valves, then moved into the oil and gas sector.

The father of four children worth around £5.9 billion, is married to Stepanka and lives in Switzerland.

Lottery draws since 1994

  • The National Lottery was established in 1994 by the government of Prime Minister John Major.
  • He bought a ticket, aides worried he would win the first draw, reports released in 2019 showed.
  • Camelot won the first license and contracts in 2001 and 2007 for second and third place.
  • The latter award came only after a Supreme Court battle, when Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson was initially selected.
  • Noel Edmonds, watched by 22 million people on TV, held the first draw, on Saturday, November 19, 1994.
  • Deborah Walsh, 18, won the contest to start the lottery.
  • The first winning numbers are 3, 5, 14, 22, 30, 44 and the bonus ball is 10.
  • The scratch card was launched in March 1995.
  • The EuroMillions draw was made in February 2004.
  • The main draw ticket doubled to £2 in October 2013.
  • The lottery has created more than 6,300 millionaires.
  • Over £45 billion raised for 660,000 good causes.
  • The UK’s anonymous ticket holder won a £170m EuroMillions jackpot in 2019, beating Scottish couple Colin and Chris Weir who won £161m in 2011.
  • Bingo rapist Iorworth Hoare won £7.2m in 2004 after being released from prison over the weekend.
  • Builder Edward Putman was jailed for nine years in 2019 for claiming £2.5 million with a fake National Lottery ticket.
  • Bingo player Michael Carroll won £9.7 million in 2002.
  • Camelot warned of a “low-level” cyberattack in 2018 that affected 150 million online customer accounts.

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Fry Electronics Team

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