It is not uncommon for people to do some last minute shopping the day before Christmas Eve, so in one sense the fact that Flutter splashed the cash last week isn’t all that surprising. What makes their purchase different, however, is the fact that they bought Sisal, the operator that is in the running to takeover the National Lottery in the United Kingdom when Camelot’s contract comes to an end next year. Sisal is one of four companies bidding to run the National Lottery, so there is a very real chance that Flutter could end up doing so.
That, of course, throws the door open to all sorts of questions about appropriateness. Flutter is the parent company of a wealth of different betting companies, with Paddy Power, Betfair and SkyBet being the most obvious examples. Should a company that is behind major bookmakers be allowed to run the National Lottery? Is that entirely appropriate? Even if Sisal doesn’t win the bid for the UK’s lottery, the company already runs lotteries in different countries around Europe, so it gives Flutter Entertainment a route into running them in their stead thanks to the takeover.
What Has Happened
Flutter Entertainment, the parent company of Paddy Power, Betfair, SkyBet and other major gambling sites, released a statement to the stock market confirming that it had agreed a deal with CVC Partners to buy Sisal, an Italian operator that offered the market gambling and betting options. Those options include lotteries in countries such as Italy and Turkey. Speaking on the matter, the Chief Executive of Flutter, Peter Jackson, said that the deal would give his company a ‘gold medal position’ in the Italian market, which matters because that is the second-largest gambling market in Europe after the UK.
Sisal, a fast-growing enterprise in the world of online betting, increased its Italian market-share by 20% over the past year or so. It is also one of the four companies bidding for control of the National Lottery when the United Kingdom Gambling Commission puts the licence up for renewal when Camelot’s ten-year licence comes to an end in 2024. It is believed that the UKGC will make a decision in February, having seen the competition prolonged a number of times for various different reasons, but Sisal are very much in the running to take over the licence.
Who Else Might Win The Lottery Licence?
At the time of writing, there are four companies in the running to take on the licence, including the current incumbents in Camelot. They are the company that have been running the lottery since its UK launch in 1994. In addition, the media tycoon Richard Desmond, who also owns the Health Lottery, has put forward a bid. The biggest threat to the monopoly that Camelot have held over the National Lottery is believed to come from Sazka, a company based in the Czech Republic that has set up a special purpose vehicle in the UK called Allwyn in order to put forward their bid.
The final proposals have been sent to the Gambling Commission, so it is now just a waiting game for the operators involved. When they released their statement, Flutter didn’t mention the National Lottery bid and it is believed that they haven’t factored it into their strategy. The takeover is not due to be completed until April, which means that it will come after the decision about the Lottery has been made. That might well be because Flutter is the subject of an investigation by the UKGC, meaning that it might not be viewed as a suitable firm to run the lottery.
Should Bookmakers Be Allowed To Run Lotteries?
When you think about the National Lottery, it is perhaps easy to forget that it is very much a form of gambling. Many punters buy their tickets via a Direct Debit, meaning that they never even think about the fact that they’re playing the lottery unless the get an email telling them that they’ve won something or they see the money disappearing from their account each month. In that sense, the Lotto, EuroMillions, Thunderball and other National Lottery games differ in big ways from more traditional methods of gambling like the casino.
If you play casino games or bet on sporting events such as football, tennis and horse racing, it is usually an immediate thing. Yes, you can place ante-post bets and many punters will do exactly that, but you still need to think about what it is that you’re betting on in a more concerted manner than many people do when they’re playing the lottery. Perhaps that is why many people think that there should be a separation of church and state between the lottery and betting companies that run a sportsbook or a casino.
Is It A Natural Evolution For Betting Companies?
Whilst it is understandable why some people might think that more traditional betting companies and lotteries should be kept apart, there is a sense that it is something of a natural evolution for major gambling businesses to look towards lotteries. There is a pattern of big betting companies hoovering up anything and everything that they see might make them money, so why should lotteries be any different? Are lotteries really all that special when compared to, say, fantasy sports or bingo operations when you think about it?
In terms of Flutter, if they did indeed end up running the National Lottery, it would mean that they would be in a position where they are almost too big to fail. Whilst that is obviously a good thing, insomuch as nobody wants to see companies going out of business or struggling in any way, it would also make them virtually invincible.
There is also a worry that betting companies running lotteries may start to do so through gambling sites themselves or alternatively making sports and casino products more visible to lottery players. This could be a bad mix for those that are already trying to avoid the more dangerous elements of gambling or indeed those more predisposed to gambling addiction.