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Britain’s National Lottery at the Center of Legal Battle

Penny December 11, 2023

The UK has a long and storied history when it comes to the gambling industry. It has been at the forefront of liberalization and has embraced the variety that the industry has to offer in the form of casinos and sportsbooks, both online and off. However, one of its best-loved forms of gaming is at the heart of an emerging controversy as a prominent businessman has begun legal proceedings against the country’s Gambling Commission. The National Lottery is an institution in the nations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. However, its long-held reputation could be at stake as questions over the way the hierarchy in charge of overseeing the lottery and other gambling activities handled contract proceedings. Could a lengthy and ugly legal battle destabilize one of Europe’s most popular lotteries?

National Lottery

EU Law Invoked to Appeal for Lottery Damages

Richard Desmond is a British media tycoon who was once at the helm of the UK’s Express newspaper group, as well as owning British TV’s Channel 5. As with almost any head of business, the publisher has looked for products to add to his portfolio in an attempt to diversify his assets. He lost out on the contract for Britain’s National Lottery, though, when the previous operators Camelot were to be replaced, in itself a controversial move. Czech-based Allwyn was granted the highly sought-after contract instead of Desmond’s Northern and Shell. This has angered the businessman who seeks to now use EU law to push the Gambling Commission to dip into its pockets and dish out damages that he believes are owed to his losing bid for lottery operation. That is despite The Guardian referring to Desmond as a “Brexit backer” who put money towards the campaigns of political parties that drove the UK to leave the European trading bloc.


The claim is that the Gambling Commission didn’t respect EU laws on the procurement of contracts, particularly impartiality and transparency. The scorned businessman has suggested that the process that was initially laid out for potential operators was ultimately not followed. Where each bidder was to be assigned points based on their proposals, Desmond believes that this encouraged a lack of competition in the bidding process and ensured the commission’s initial preferred choice in Allwyn was favored. Because of this, the British mogul is seeking around £200 million in damages, according to the Financial Times. That’s due to the contract potentially being worth multiple billions to the chosen operator over the entirety of the 10-year contract – a princely sum for whoever was successful in the process. And, while many will understand the discontent with missing out on billions, some will see the move as cynical considering the money that the National Lottery in the UK allots much of its revenue to charitable endeavors and the arts in the country.


Will Damages Take Money From Lottery-Backed Charity?

Ultimately, the harm of this legal action will be borne by the needy in the UK. The Gambling Commission uses the charitable arm of its funds to bankroll any litigation it faces in such matters. As such, the hundreds of millions would likely be taken directly from the community funding that the lottery takes part in. That’s why a number of high-profile names, including British MPs, have called on Desmond to back down and allow the lottery to continue without having to fight an expensive litigation battle that will ultimately hurt only those who need the assistance of its community support. And that is a significant blow in a country where so much work is done by charitable organizations and the arts rely heavily on external funding from non-government bodies. In fact, according to the National Lottery website, movies it has funded have claimed 14 Academy Awards and more than 30 BAFTAs. It’s clear that a big dent in the funding for the coming years would be a stifle to the country’s creativity, as well as global cinema.


It remains to be seen whether this legal battle will be resolved soon or whether it will rumble on for a long time. When such significant amounts of money are being dealt with, it’s unlikely that any of the interested parties will want to be the first to buckle under pressure. However, with the potential knock-on effects of such an expensive controversy, the wider public in the UK will want the matter to be resolved quickly in an effort to avoid any adverse effects and a stain on what is, rightly, a well-loved gambling institution.

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