Camelot in running to buy lottery licence

The operator of Britain’s national lottery has moved quickly to express interest in its Irish counterpart as the Government put a 20-year licence to run it up for sale.

British gambling giant Camelot said it welcomed the Irish move, but needed time to “digest” the implications of bidding for the lucrative deal.

The slice of lottery money earmarked for good causes will remain at 30.5%, Public Sector Reform Minister Brendan Howlin insisted yesterday as he announced the far-reaching changes to the gaming set-up.

The new licence would deliver an upfront payment of several hundred million euro — estimated in the €400m-€600m range — which could be pumped into projects such as the national children’s hospital.

The longer licence has been designed to attract international bidders such as Camelot and will replace the present licence awarded to An Post National Lottery Company, which operates the Lotto for an annual management fee of €2.8m.

Mr Howlin said that front-loading lottery-generated money to the State would benefit taxpayers, and help specific projects such as the hospital.

“I am locking-in a sizeable future revenue stream as part of any deal.

“The ongoing money towards good causes will be retained at current percentage levels.

“This will be a good deal for the State and the taxpayer.

“Where the State identifies options to generate additional revenues that don’t impact on taxpayers we need to pursue them.”

The tendering process is due to be completed early next year, with the present licence already extended to July 2013 in anticipation of this.

The licence changes are expected to trigger a major increase in online activities for the lottery under its next licence operator.

“The online applications and processes of the National Lottery need to be modernised,” said Mr Howlin.

“Globally, lotteries are doing more business online and in the context of a 20-year licence we need to provide for this but in a manner that has sufficient safeguards.”

An Post said it was looking forward to “actively competing for the new lottery licence”, with Australian gaming giant the Tatts Group also believed to be interested.

Camelot top brass have already held a number of meetings with government officials regarding the sale of the lottery licence.

A spokesperson for the company said it was glad that Ireland was “moving forward” with its lottery arrangements.

The National Lottery paid out €420m in prizes and produced €244m for charities in 2010 from sales of €772m.

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