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UK lottery operator reports record first half sales

National Lottery operator Camelot on Tuesday reported record half year sales as it goes into the final weeks of one of the toughest competitions for the new UK lottery licence in its 27 year history.

The company, which has run the National Lottery since it was established in 1994, said it recorded sales of £3.9bn in the six months to September 30, up 2.7 per cent compared with the same period in 2020.

The sales were boosted by an uptick in players buying its draw-based Lotto game and an increase in marketing during the summer Olympics. Camelot said its net profit represented 1 per cent of sales.

The amount Camelot returned to good causes was £884.5m, a 2.4 per cent increase compared with one year earlier.

The results come as Camelot awaits a decision by the gambling regulator on whether it will retain the lottery licence for a fourth time after a hotly contested competition for the lucrative government contract.

Bidders submitted their final presentations to the Gambling Commission at the investment bank Rothschild’s London headquarters this month. A final decision on who will run the lottery from 2023, when the current licence expires, will be announced in February.

Others vying to win the contract include the Italian lottery operator Sisal, the Czech gambling company Sazka and the media mogul Richard Desmond.

One person close to Camelot said it expected the outcome to be “close” and that the company had hired the crossbench peer Lord David Pannick to represent it in the event that the outcome was challenged by one of the losing bidders and there was a judicial review.

One rival to Camelot for the lottery licence said the final submission process had been gruelling, with participants giving a three hour presentation followed by two hours of questioning.

Nigel Railton, chief executive of Camelot, said the high sales figures were not the product of extra efforts ahead of the bid. “I’m always focused on our performance,” he added “We’ve had four and half years of sales growth and the strategy has been consistent.”

Railton took charge at Camelot in 2017 following a difficult period for the company during which returns to good causes fell and it was fined more than £1m by the Gambling Commission for “historic control and governance failings”.

Bidders for the next lottery licence are strictly forbidden by the regulator from commenting publicly on their prospects in the competition but Railton said “as a management team, we feel we are only just getting started”.

Camelot declined to comment on Pannick’s appointment.

In a sign of the slow recovery on UK high streets following the coronavirus pandemic, Camelot said sales of lottery tickets at its 44,000 retailers were still below 2019 levels.

Railton also warned the company could face a tough year in 2022 as inflationary pressures hit discretionary spending by consumers.

“Consumer confidence is low, discretionary spend is under pressure but we have a really resilient business,” he said.

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