Billionaire media mogul Richard Desmond set to bid for rights to run National Lottery
Billionaire media mogul Richard Desmond is set to bid for the rights to run the National Lottery.
Through his company Northern & Shell, which owns the Express and Star newspapers, the 65-year-old is expected to try and take the franchise from current operator Camelot.
His effort follows a similar attempt by Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson in 2000.
Making his move: Richard Desmond’s effort follows a similar attempt by Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson in 2000
A source close to Northern & Shell yesterday confirmed Desmond’s firm would be making a bid, adding: ‘There are various criteria you have to fulfil and they already have.’
The group already runs The Health Lottery, which is made up of 51 smaller lotteries representing local authority areas across Britain. It has been loss-making since its launch in 2011.
Bosses have been calling for deregulation of society lotteries, including of the maximum percentage of sales that prize money can be worth, calling for the cap to be raised to 50 per cent from 10 per cent.
Martin Ellice, a joint managing director at Northern & Shell, told the Financial Times: ‘We’re going to go for it … We’re in the lottery business now.’
Desmond, whose firm is in talks to sell its newspapers to rival Trinity Mirror, is hoping he can take the larger National Lottery franchise when it comes up for renewal in 2019.
Camelot has run the lottery since it was established by John Major’s government in 1994 and holds the rights to continue doing so until at least 2023.
The firm is owned by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, a major pension fund in Canada. It was bought for £390m seven years ago. If Desmond is successful, it would mean the lottery franchise would return to British hands.
Paul Ashford, Northern & Shell’s group editorial director, said: ‘The British people would not mind a British company doing the British lottery.’
It comes after Camelot warned in June that lottery ticket sales had fallen 8.8 per cent, to £6.9bn, in the year to March 31.