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High Court lifts automatic suspension of award of contract for fourth National Lottery operating licence

The Gambling Commission can proceed with the award of the fourth licence to operate the National Lottery after a High Court judge lifted the automatic suspension which arose on the issue of two procurement challenges.

The Gambling Commission’s decision to award the contract to Allwyn Entertainment was challenged by incumbent Camelot and IGT, who both sought to maintain the suspension.

In addition to the Commission’s bid to lift the suspension, Mrs Justice O’Farrell also heard an application from Camelot and IGT for an expedited trial in October 2022.

The Commission in turn did not oppose the application for expedition but considered that a trial in October 2022 would be challenging and would not avoid the detriment suffered by the Commission by continuation of the suspension in the meantime. Its position was that a timetable leading to a trial in January 2023 would be more realistic.

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In Camelot UK Lotteries Ltd v The Gambling Commission [2022] EWHC 1664 (TCC) Mrs Justice O’Farrell decided that for the purposes of the applications before her, the court was satisfied that there was a serious issue to be tried in each case.

She also concluded that damages would be an adequate remedy for both Camelot and IGT, and it was just that they should be confined to that remedy.

The judge went on to find that damages would not be an adequate remedy for the Commission if the suspension were to be maintained and it succeeded at trial.

She meanwhile rejected a proposal that the Commission could grant an interim licence to Camelot pending resolution of the legal challenges. The judge also dismissed a further alternative, namely, that the suspension could be lifted in part to allow the Commission and Allwyn to enter into what was described as an enabling agreement, but the Commission's ability to grant the Fourth Licence would remain suspended.

In relation to the public interest, Mrs Justice O’Farrell said: “The public interest in this case is a strong factor in favour of lifting the suspension. For the reasons set out above, maintaining the suspension until resolution of the dispute will cause delay to the Fourth Licence. In turn, this will cause delay to the benefits of the Fourth Licence, giving rise to reduced contributions to the good causes and delayed introduction of the enhanced game portfolio and new technologies.

“Balanced against the commercial losses that might be suffered by Camelot and IGT, for which damages would be an adequate remedy, in this case, allowing the Commission and Allwyn to proceed with the Fourth Licence is the course that will produce the least risk of injustice if ultimately it proves to be wrong.”

The judge therefore concluded that the balance of convenience lay in lifting the automatic suspension so that the Commission was permitted to enter into the enabling agreement with Allwyn and, subsequently, to award the Fourth Licence.

“In the light of the court's decision to lift the suspension, the court will hear from the parties as to whether they wish to proceed with an expedited hearing, or any alternative timetable for trial,” she added.

Camelot has operated the National Lottery since its inception in 1994.

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