Daily Express owner said to be mounting bid to take over National Lottery

Richard Desmond’s company, Northern & Shell, planning to ‘go for’ rights to lottery, according to Financial Times

Richard Desmond, the billionaire owner of the Daily and Sunday Express newspapers, is planning to bid for the rights to run the National Lottery.

Desmond, who already runs the rival Health Lottery, is said to be preparing to tender for the UK lottery franchise when it comes up for renewal in 2019. Camelot, which is owned by Canadian pension fund the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, holds the rights to run the National Lottery until 2023.

A bid for the monopoly lottery franchise would be made by Northern and Shell, Desmond’s holding company, which owns his newspaper titles. Martin Ellice, joint managing director of Northern and Shell, told the Financial Times: “We’re going to go for it [the National Lottery licence], irrespective [of regulatory changes]. We’re in the lottery business now.”

Desmond, who is in talks to sell his newspaper assets to rival Trinity Mirror, has repeatedly pressed the government to allow competitors to the National Lottery to offer jackpot prizes of £1m. The Health Lottery, which he launched in 2011, is not a national lottery but a collection of 51 local society lotteries that raise funds for health-related good causes. The Health Lottery, which pays out a maximum of £100,000 prizes, has lost £160m in the six years since it launched.

Camelot, which has held the rights to the National Lottery since it was launched in 1994, failed in a 2012 high court bid to have the Gambling Commission’s licence for the Health Lottery revoked.

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, one of Canada’s biggest pension funds, bought Camelot for £389m in 2010.

Northern and Shell did not respond to a request for comment.

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Rupert Neate

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