The Chair of the UK Lottery Competition Committee has Russian ties.

Lottery Competition pictured

Lottery Competition committee discovered links between the UK lottery and Russia.

After a Mail on Sunday investigation revealed that the man who chairs the National Lottery Competition Committee has close ties to Russia, the National Lottery bid is once again under the spotlight. Allwyn, the lottery corporation owned by Czech millionaire Karel Komarek, was eventually awarded a licence by Stephen Cohen.

According to the investigation, Cohen worked for a key government official, Andrey Sharonov, who was deputy economics minister, for years in the private sector, helping bring new capital to the Russian market. Cohen was in charge of the hedge fund investment vessel owned by Troika Dialog between 2005 and 2008, a bank that was popular with the Russian government at the time due to its ties to Gazprom, the Russian energy giant that has been used to project Russia’s economic power on much of Europe over the years. Lottery competition committee will investigate further.

Camelot’s contention that the procedure was not totally transparent could be supported by the fact that Allwyn has previously been identified as having done business with Gazprom. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) noted that none of the companies involved were linked to any ongoing sanctions on Russia, which has been slammed by Western-led financial sanctions in response to the former’s invasion of sovereign Ukraine and commission of war crimes and atrocities. Komarek, to his credit, has spoken out against the fighting and has urged a cease-fire from Russia.

Cohen’s case is a little different, because the Mail on Sunday had to delve a little further to locate his former work history, which was not easily visible on the UKGC’s website. According to the media, neither his LinkedIn page nor his government website mentioned his past business venture in Russia. Camelot has already filed a legal challenge to the lottery’s decision, and while it has made no mention of prejudice in the case – instead focusing on changes in the procurement process as the deadline approaches – it may be able to utilise this new information to make a somewhat different argument.

MPs demand complete transparency in the case.

Meanwhile, MPs from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm encouraged the UKGC to ensure that the licencing process is fair because it involves a significant contract that will determine the lottery’s future. MPs have urged prudence in handing the rights to a corporation with possible Russian ties

Members of the lottery competition committee said that because it is one of the government’s largest contracts, everything should be “above board.” However, if Allwyn Entertainment becomes caught down in legislative proceedings with Camelot, and maybe Sisal if the latter joins, the baton may not be passed to Allwyn Entertainment right away. In 2024, Allwyn is expected to take over from Camelot, lowering the ticket price from £2 to £1.

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