Italian Gambling Giant Sisal Enters UK National Lottery Bidding War

Italian gambling operator Sisal, which runs the country’s most popular lottery, has hopped into the race to operate UK’s National Lottery.

The Telegraph reported over the weekend citing unnamed sources that Sisal will lead a consortium that will seek to seize control of the National Lottery from its long-time operator Camelot. The consortium will receive financial backing from private equity firm CVC Capital partners. Back in 2016, CVC acquired a 100% equity stake in the Italian operator for €1 billion.

Camelot has run the lottery in the UK since it was launched in 1994. Originally a British-led group, it was acquired by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan in 2010 in a £389 million deal. Its license to operate the National Lottery expires in 2023 and the UK Gambling Commission is set to decide on whether it would award another ten-year license extension to the current operator or choose a new operator in an ongoing formal bidding process.

The regulator is expected to announce its decision on the matter by the end of the year.

Sisal is one of Italy’s largest gambling operators. It runs both land-based gaming and betting establishments and online facilities. The company’s products include poker, slots games, wagering, and bingo, among others. As mentioned above, it also runs one of its home country’s largest and most popular lotteries, SuperEnalotto.

Not First Attempt at Expanding Abroad

While for the greater part of its existence Sisal has focused on its domestic business, the company has made several successful efforts to expand its lottery footprint abroad in the past couple of years. The Italian operator recently won bids in Turkey and Morocco to provide lottery operations there and was granted license renewal in Italy.

In the UK, Sisal is competing not just against Camelot, which seeks to have its license extended for another ten-year period, but also against former media tycoon Richard Desmond, who runs the nation’s Health Lottery, and Czech lottery operator SAZKA, which is owned by billionaire businessman Karel Komárek.

News emerged late last year that Wall Street buyout firm Apollo Global Management has backed SAZKA’s effort to win the UK National Lottery license with a €500 million investment.

The bidding process for the UK prize draw finally commenced in late August after multiple delays. SAZKA announced its surprise challenge to Camelot’s long-standing reign as the National Lottery operator two months later.

The Czech operator later on hired Sir Keith Mills, who led London’s 2012 Olympics campaign and serve as Deputy Chairman of the London Organising Committee, as its bid chairman. He now oversees the company’s run in the race for the lucrative 10-year license.

Source: CVC-Backed Sisal to Bid to Run U.K. Lottery, Telegraph Says, Bloomberg, April 11, 2021

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