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The BBC's Nick Higham reports
"This time he hopes he's onto a winner"
 real 28k

Richard Branson
"Last time the lottery regulator did not take into account all the market research"
 real 28k

The BBC's Torin Douglas
"Richard Branson's decision to run will be a relief to the government"
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Monday, 13 December, 1999, 17:10 GMT
Virgin bids for UK lottery

Richard Branson and lottery balls The People's Lottery is to challenge Camelot

Tycoon Richard Branson has said he plans to challenge Camelot in the bidding to run the UK's National Lottery from 2001.

National Lottery - five years on
How to win the lottery
Winning loses its gloss
The rise, fall and rise of Camelot
Whose ‘good causes’ are they anyway?
Speaking at the official launch of the People's Lottery bid, the Virgin boss said that unlike the existing operator Camelot, none of the suppliers would be shareholders and all profits running from the lottery would go to good causes.

"All our profits will go to good causes. There will be no dividends, no shareholders creaming money off the top," he said.

"We believe the people should be the beneficiaries, not the operator. They should benefit as players, as winners, and as members of the general public benefiting from the good causes that the lottery is able to support."

People's Lottery Limited will run against Camelot, who announced its bid in partnership with the Post Office on 30 November.

The Virgin boss lost out to the Camelot consortium when the initial licence was awarded to run the Lottery for seven years from 1994.

Camelot, the current licence holder, entered the race in partnership with the Post Office, just hours after the Lottery regulator set out the final ground rules for bidders on 30 November.

Mr Branson is expected to prove tough competition in the battle for the coveted contract which begins in October 2001.

His decision to run it will come as a great relief to the government and the National Lottery Commission, who fear Camelot might become the only bidder, making a mockery of the competition process.

The Virgin boss had expressed grave concerns that the competition would not be played out under fair conditions and urged the Commission to guarantee a level playing field.

Richard Branson: Wants fair competition
However, the game's regulator announced it was keen to promote fair competition, and recently stipulated that all 30,000 ticket terminals must be replaced by the new Lottery operator, removing Camelot's obvious advantage.

It was also announced that earnings for the next licence-holder would be linked to the amount raised for Good Causes instead of sales, as they are now.

In another major change to the existing rules, bidders will be asked to submit proposals to give a slice of "excesses" or windfall profits to the lottery's good causes.

The deadline for bids to run the Lottery will fall at the end of February next year, with selection taking place by the end of June or earlier.

Since Camelot won the licence five years ago, the Lottery has sold more than £25bn in tickets and more than 900 people have become millionaires.

Camelot's profit-take is currently restricted to 1% of sales. Ticket sales fell by 7% in the 24 weeks to September 11 this year and the amount raised for good causes dropped 9% to £633.5 million.

But Camelot has said it is on course to have raised £10 billion for good causes when its licence expires in September 2001.

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See also:
13 Dec 99 |  Business
The next step in the lottery game
12 Nov 99 |  The Company File
The rise, fall and rise of Camelot
12 Nov 99 |  UK
When is a cause a good cause?
30 Sep 99 |  The Company File
Lottery licence bids open

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