Czech tycoon to try his luck with bid for National Lottery

A gambling firm owned by one of the Czech Republic’s richest men is preparing a bid to run the National Lottery – and the company claims it could do a better job than Camelot.

Sazka Group, part of the KKCG investment firm owned by billionaire Karel Komarek, has hired City advisers to prepare an offer to take the licence from Camelot in 2023.

A spokesman for Sazka – which runs national lotteries in Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Austria and the Czech Republic – said: ‘Sazka Group has a proven track record in taking on established lotteries and making them better, which would position it well for any potential bid for the UK’s National Lottery.’

'Track record': Karel Komarek (pictured with wife Stepanka) is one of the Czech Republic's richest men

‘Track record’: Karel Komarek (pictured with wife Stepanka) is one of the Czech Republic’s richest men

Komarek started out in business investing in oil and gas in the Czech Republic after the Velvet Revolution in the 1990s and has amassed a ยฃ2.5 billion fortune.

He founded Sazka Group in 2016 and it has since become one of Europe’s biggest lottery operators.

In 2018, almost 80 million players placed more than ยฃ14 billion of bets across its lotteries and its other sports betting brands.

A source close to the competition described Sazka as the ‘dark horse’ among the frontrunners to bid against Camelot.

Francaise des Jeux, the newly privatised French state lottery operator, and the former media baron Richard Desmond are also understood to be in the running.

Desmond, who operates the Health Lottery through his Northern & Shell group, has said his bid will take the National Lottery ‘back into British hands’.

The contest is set to launch in the first half of the year when the Gambling Commission regulator will question interested parties to check they are ‘fit and proper’ operators.

A spokesman for the Gambling Commission said: ‘We’ve been reviewing the feedback received from a wide range of interested parties and we have been encouraged by the healthy level of interest.’

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