PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The latest gaming company to enter the fray surrounding Rhode Island’s proposed 20-year, $1 billion state Lottery contract has history with the current contract-holder, IGT, highlighting how entangled gambling companies are across the industry.
Camelot Lottery Solutions, an affiliate of the British Lottery operator Camelot UK, last week joined Rhode Island casino operator Twin River Worldwide Holdings in putting forward a competing proposal for the state Lottery contract.
For months, Twin River executives have mounted a campaign against Gov. Gina Raimondo’s proposal to extend the current contract between the state and IGT for another two decades, calling on lawmakers to put it through a competitive bidding process and award it to them instead.
Twin River’s newest alternative proposal marked the first time many Rhode Islanders had ever heard about Camelot. But industry observers — and those who remember IGT’s days as GTECH — might recall that GTECH helped create Camelot back in 1993 to bid for the British Lottery contract.
The GTECH-led consortium was successful in winning the contract, but the situation become complicated when business tycoon Richard Branson accused Guy Snowden, then-chairman of GTECH, of trying to bribe him to drop out of the bidding process.
The duo later sued each other, and a London jury sided with Branson in 1996. Snowden stepped down from GTECH and Camelot. The London company still runs the British Lottery today, and IGT has continued to provide it with gaming technology.
“We are pleased that the U.K. National Lottery Commission has chosen Camelot for its third lottery license,” GTECH’s then-CEO, W. Bruce Turner, said in 2007. “We are also gratified that Camelot has chosen to procure a wide range of the latest technology in the lottery industry from GTECH.”
Now GTECH is IGT, and Camelot is trying to compete with IGT for the Rhode Island Lottery contract, aligning itself with Twin River against its former shareholder and current technology partner.
Camelot director of global affairs Emilia Mazur told Target 12 she was not in a position to comment on what transpired two decades ago, but said the company believes in an open bidding process that “supports healthy competition in order to drive the best possible outcomes for key stakeholders including players, retailers and the residents of Rhode Island.”
Twin River spokesperson Patti Doyle also declined to comment on Camelot’s business history and whether it should play into how lawmakers think about the company’s local presence.
“I don’t see any need for a Twin River comment – that’s more of an IGT story about past CEO’s. No relevancy today,” Doyle wrote in an email.
When asked about IGT’s history with Camelot, current IGT chairman Robert Vincent acknowledged the gambling industry is intertwined, saying there are only a few companies that do the highly specialized work.
But he rejected the idea that Camelot represents competition to IGT.
“There are a few credible providers that regularly compete against one another in the technology space, and Camelot is not one of them,” Vincent said.
Nonetheless, IGT listed Camelot first among its rivals in its 2018 annual report.
“The company’s principal competitors in the Lottery business include Camelot, Intralot, Pollard, SAZKA, Sisal, Scientific Games, and Tattersalls,” IGT said in the report.
Who is Camelot?
Camelot — which since 2010 has been owned by Canada’s Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan — has had some success landing lottery contracts elsewhere in Europe and the United States, in partnership with technology companies.
In addition to the British Lottery, Camelot runs the Irish Lottery and provides services for Loterie Romande, a gambling utility in the French-speaking area of Switzerland. (Camelot uses IGT technology in both the United Kingdom and Switzerland, and its CEO, Wayne Pickup, used to work at IGT.)
In the United States, Camelot has provided services to the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery since 2015, and more recently successfully snared a contract to run the Illinois Lottery previously held by an IGT-led consortium.
In 2018, then-Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois estimated terminating the existing deal and finding a new Lottery operator would save his taxpayers $22 million.
“Camelot replaced Northstar (a joint venture between IGT and Scientific Games) in Illinois due to lottery performance and profit targets not being met,” Mazur said. “Camelot’s successful bid in Illinois was founded on the Lottery’s and Camelot’s common goals to responsibly grow the Lottery’s player base, introduce new technology and innovation, eliminate conflicts of interest, and ensure responsiveness to public needs and concerns.”
Camelot’s overhaul of the Lottery infrastructure in Illinois, such as playing terminals and ticketing, was described as “one of the largest and most complex lottery transitions ever undertaken by a U.S. lottery” in a state report earlier this year.
But the switchover was accompanied by some technological issues — highlighting a concern some Rhode Island officials have about the possible problems that could come along with unraveling IGT from the state Lottery system after two decades.
IGT originally secured the Illinois deal in 2011, when the state was one of three to experiment with fully privatizing parts of lottery operations.
But after several contract disputes over operations and missed profit targets, Illinois decided to put the deal back out for bid, and Camelot – in partnership with Greek gaming technology company Intralot – won its first contract to run a U.S. lottery.
Camelot was the only company to bid on the contract, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Vincent still defends IGT’s performance in Illinois, saying the state set arbitrary performance metrics and made it challenging to operate effectively. And he points to the contracts IGT continues to hold with the other two states, Indiana and New Jersey, that experimented with privatization at the time.
IGT also runs state lotteries in several other states, including Florida, which disqualified Camelot – operating there as Premier Lotteries Florida – from bidding for its contract in 2015.
The Florida Lottery did not respond to a request for comment, but a written decision showed Florida officials determined the company had “not demonstrated to the Lottery’s satisfaction that it is qualified to proceed.”
“The decision for the Florida Lottery contract was made four years ago and a lot has changed in our company and the lottery industry in that time,” Mazur said, adding that the company respected the results of the competitive bidding process.
How much Camelot’s pitch to run the state Lottery will matter in Rhode Island largely depends on lawmakers’ decision around the proposed IGT contract extension. Both the House and Senate have launched hearings this fall to vet the proposed deal, which requires their approval.
Twin River and now Camelot are hopeful lawmakers will reject the process and give them a chance to fully present their own proposal. But it’s still unclear whether the duo would need a third partner to run the gaming technology.
Twin River does not specialize in providing technology services, and Mazur said Camelot partners with other lottery suppliers, such as IGT in Europe and Intralot in Illinois, for traditional lottery terminals and central systems.
Mazur did not respond to a request for comment on whether a third company that specializes in technology — such as IGT, Intralot or Scientific Games — would need to be brought on board by Camelot and Twin River to run the Rhode Island Lottery.
Vincent calls the entire discussion an attempt by Twin River to create “political mayhem,” predicting lawmakers will come to agree.
“Is it distracting? Yes. But in the end, I think lawmakers see it for what it is. [Twin River] has put several different proposals forward that are all very different, so you get the sense that they’re throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks,” Vincent said. “So far, nothing has.”