The UK National Lottery is about to launch a new tender for its multi-annual exclusive licence. The current holder has been undisputed for more than a quarter of a century. Industry reports speak of stronger competition this time around, including an Indian lottery giant among the frontline contenders.
A hugely profitable government contract in an exceptionally stable economic sector sounds like a business fairy tale. Especially if the same company has held the license for almost three decades, as is the case of British lotto administrator Camelot.
With the National Lottery contract expiring in 2023, the gaming world has been alerted that the UK Government is launching a new procedure for the lucrative concession. Besides the current holder, there are at least three other consortia which are reported with a fair chance of a successful bid.
Those who buy lottery tickets online in India have probably heard one of the bidders – Sugal & Damani are known for running a lion’s share of the legal lottery market. The others competing for the contract include Italian gaming operator Sisal (joined by British Telecom) and the Czech brand Allwyn.
In India, public lotteries were created even earlier, an industry study shows. Kerala was first to launch a State drawing back in 1967. Today, state governments in Maharashtra, Sikkim, Punjab, Goa and West Bengal are among those running their official lotto games.
Admittedly, for most Indians this has always been a passion. Online lottery – along with traditional terms like satta and matka – are among leading Google searches even today. But while there is also a large underground lottery market, most punters prefer a legal outlet and having some quality online games to choose from, on websites like 10Cric.com
Sugal & Damani are one of the three major companies on the Indian legal lottery scene, holding a majority share of the market. This is a business which sees little contraction and practically no significant risks even in times of a global recession.
Similarly, Camelot has been the UK National Lottery operator since its inception in 1994. It is widely recognised for the impressive job done in the beginning, putting up the infrastructure with physical terminals, thousands of retailers under contract and a large communications network to maintain.
But Camelot has already had its problems, most recently with the lack of public transparency, some huge shareholder payouts and meagre contribution to good causes – the latter required by the British law and Government.
In 2001 the company won the tender over Richard Branson and got the renewal and in 2007 it was Sugal & Damani which went close to dethroning Camelot. But this time around, even after some consistent sales – given at £7.9bn ($1.1bn) for the past financial year – the UK Government is reportedly looking for a change, should a quality bid arrive.
The new licensee is expected to bring fresh ideas and much better digitisation standards to the game. Sugal & Damani claim to have over 75% of the online lottery business in India, with some 15 million daily recorded transactions.
While it has remained quiet since formally entering the race, the Delhi conglomerate has the particular experience in being selected as a reserve bidder back in 2007. With interests in IT and stockbroking among others, Sugal & Damani runs gaming services across 26 jurisdictions (including Africa) in more than 70 different game genres.
The desi conglomerate is facing some strong competition but with the experience and business nous it has already shown on a global scale, it hopes to move up the final ranking this time around.
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