Camelot Group are the operators of the UK National Lottery. Camelot Group was awarded the National Lottery franchise in May 1994 (though the lottery did not start until November 1994) and was re-awarded the franchise in 2001 and again in 2007. The current franchise period started in 2009 and runs until 2019, with a possible extension of up to five years. The governmental body the National Lottery Commission is responsible for deciding who is awarded the franchise. The way the franchise was awarded to Camelot in 2001 caused some controversy because state owned Royal Mail held a 20% stake in the Camelot Group.
In March 2010, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan from Canada announced that it was buying Camelot for £389m.
Camelot was formed as a consortium to bid for the National Lottery project. The major partners were International Computers Limited (ICL), supplying hardware, software, and systems integration expertise; Racal with responsibility for the communications network; and Cadbury Schweppes bringing experience in consumer marketing and knowledge of the world of corner-shop retailers. De La Rue brought knowledge of secure printing technology, and GTECH Corporation were brought in as the selected supplier of applications software. Staff were seconded from the partner companies, transferring to Camelot Group when the bid was won.
Senior executives such as Tim Holley were enticed to join the project by the promise of large bonuses if the bid was successful. This caused embarrassment later when the incoming Labour government, in particular Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary, publicly criticised Camelot and its executives for excessive greed in the level of salaries and bonus payments.
The Camelot name is reflected in the actual lottery machines used in the National Lottery draw, which are named for characters, places, and objects in Arthurian Legend (Guinevere, Lancelot, Excalibur, Arthur, etc.).
There were two companies competing for the National Lottery franchise in 2001, Camelot, the incumbent operator, and a rival operator organised by Sir Richard Branson called "The People's Lottery".
During the 2000 franchise bidding process, a technical problem with lottery terminals supplied by American company GTECH Corporation came to light. It was discovered that this technical problem may have inadvertently caused winners to be paid incorrect amounts. Because of this problem and the relationship between Camelot and GTECH, the National Lottery Commission recommended that the lottery franchise be awarded to the People's Lottery. GTECH had been a shareholder in Camelot Group but they sold their shareholding to Camelot Group, and the remaining shareholders increased their stakes from 16.66% to 20%.
In August 2000 the chair of the National Lottery Commission, Dame Helena Shovelton, announced that neither party would be invited to run the National Lottery, claiming that neither party met the statutory requirements to run the lottery. It was felt legal problems were responsible for the downfall of the People's Lottery bid whilst the relationship between G-Tech and Camelot was the reason Camelot would not be invited to run the lottery. Although neither bid met the statutory requirements, the Commission still tried to award the franchise to the People's Lottery.
By September 2000 it was clear that although neither party met the statutory requirements to run the lottery, the Commission was going to award the franchise to the People's Lottery. Camelot initiated legal action, taking the Commission to the high court for a judicial review. The High Court judges sided with Camelot, describing the commission's decision as "conspicuously unfair". The National Lottery Commission responded by dismissing the UK Treasury legal team who had been advising them. Dame Helena resigned shortly afterwards and was replaced by Lord Burns.
During November, the National Lottery Commission reopened the bidding process and both parties resubmitted their bids, the commission hoped to announce the winner by mid-December. On 19 December 2000 the commission announced that Camelot would be awarded the franchise, with voting 4-1 in favour of Camelot. One member later resigned from the commission over the process, deeply unhappy that Camelot had been re-awarded the franchise. It was during the second bidding process that Camelot agreed to buy out shareholder G-Tech's stake in the company. Sir Richard Branson threatened to take further legal action but faced with the prospect of a lengthy and costly legal battle, one which could have resulted in the National Lottery games being suspended, he backed down.
On 31 January 2009 Camelot's third licence period started, which increases the money given to good causes, and increased retailers' commission from 5% to 6%. The third licence is for a ten-year period with the option to extend by a further five years. Camelot announced a programme of redundancies in March 2009 to cut costs throughout the company.
In March 2012, the National Lottery Commission extended Camelot’s Licence by four years to 2023, on condition that Camelot deliver an additional £1.7 billion in lottery funding to good causes.
Camelot doubled the ticket price of its main National Lottery game, Lotto, to £2, in October 2013 with the aim of increasing ticket sales. Analysts noted that in the subsequent 2-year period, funds raised for good causes by the National Lottery fell by £100 million.
In December 2016, Camelot was fined £3 million by the Gambling Commission over an apparent ticket fraud. A jackpot winner in 2009 had allegedly conspired with a Camelot employee to claim £2.5 million in prize money using a bogus ticket. Although police did not have enough evidence to bring a prosecution, the commission found that Camelot had breached the terms of its operating licence in failing to investigate the veracity of the prize claim before paying out.
As of 2005, each pound (100p) spent on the National Lottery is split as follows:50p Prize fund
28p Good causes
5p Retailers as commission
4.5p Camelot for operating costs
0.5p Camelot for profit