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    MPs raise questions on Allwyn’s commitment, ownership structure

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    MPs have demanded assurances over the new national lottery operator, Allwyn, raising concerns about its commitments to safer gambling and donations to good causes, as well as its ownership structure.

    In a letter to the Gambling Commission, seen by the Guardian, the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on gambling-related harm called for an update on how the regulator would hold Allwyn to promises it made when trying to win the contract.

    During the lengthy competition process, Allwyn pledged to more than double the amount that its predecessor, Camelot, had raised for good causes over the course of the licence, from £17.9 billion to £38bn.

    Chief executive Robert Chvátal has since said that the company “may get a headwind initially” that will lead to a shortfall in its targeted increase at first. Allwyn insists it will still hit the £38bn target over the course of the licence.

    The group, led by Labour’s Carolyn Harris and former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith, asked the regulator to explain “what action is being taken to ensure that returns to good causes are prioritised and increased under the new contract.”

    The Gambling Commission said in March 2022 that it had decided to award Allwyn the lucrative 10-year licence to run the lottery, estimated to be worth up to £100bn in sales. The decision, which was officially confirmed six months later, followed a three-way bidding war between Allwyn, the media tycoon Richard Desmond, and Camelot, the holder of every licence since weekly draws began in 1994.

    APPG also voiced concern about Allwyn’s recent acquisition of a 70 per cent stake in online gambling content developer Instant Win Gaming (IWG),  the supplier of iGaming content which makes instant win games that have been linked by studies to higher rates of problem gambling than weekly lottery draws.

    Further questions are raised on business ties between its ultimate owner, the Czech billionaire Karel Komárek, and Russia. When Allwyn officially took over the licence on 1 February 2024, the Guardian revealed that Komárek’s holding company, KKCG, was still in business with the Kremlin-owned gas company Gazprom, nearly two years after promising regulators he would sever ties with Russia.

    The APPG asked the Gambling Commission for “further information on the thorough checks that the Commission has undertaken and will continue to, regarding Allwyn’s ownership and that of its affiliates”.

    Allwyn said it was “committed to modernising and safely growing The national lottery over the next 10 years, with draw-based games like Lotto at the heart of our strategy.

    “Today, the national lottery generates £30m each week of funding for good cause projects; our aim is to double that to £60m each week by the end of the licence.”

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