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Tuesday, 22 August, 2000, 18:10 GMT 19:10 UK
The life of the lottery
national lottery ticket
The national lottery was launched in 1994
The UK's lottery is the biggest in the world. Some 35,000 computer terminals churn out more than 80 million tickets every week.

It has been a fact of life in the UK since 1994, with about two thirds of the adult population regularly buying a ticket, and many millions glued to the TV twice a week for the lottery draws.

But as well as hitting the headlines for making millionaires, the national lottery has also been beset by controversy.

1994: the launch
Camelot and Sir Richard both bid for the first lottery licence. Sir Richard's bid is based on the creation of a non-profit-making charitable foundation. But the Office of the National lottery decides that it is unlikely to achieve its targets, and gives the licence to Camelot Group.

Sir Richard determines to win the licence when it comes up for renewal the year 2000. The first National Lottery takes place in November.

Winnning facts
1995: 133 winners scoop the jackpot resulting in the lowest jackpot payout per person at 122,510 each
1996: Three people win a share the highest jackpot of 42,008,610
1998: William Hague's aunt, Majorie Longdin, wins 856,648 and promises to buy her nephew "something practical".
2000: Since 1994 more than 1,000 lottery millionaires have been created
1996: bribery allegations
Sir Richard sensationally alleges the former chairman of Camelot's partner G-tech, Guy Snowden, had tried to bribe him to withdraw from the race in 1993. It was to later end up in a damaging court case.

1997: profits issue
When Labour comes to power it says it is committed to a "not for profit" lottery - the plan is even mentioned in the manifesto. But when the lottery commission publishes the basis for granting the next licence in 1999 the proposals don't stipulate that the new holder should be a non-profit organiser.

Branson in legal battle with GTech
Sir Richard on his way to court in 1998
1998: court case
Sir Richard and GTech sue each other for libel over the allegation that GTech's Guy Snowden tried to bribe Sir Richard. The Virgin boss wins.

Gtech, which supplies all the computer software, hardware and technical expertise for the national lottery, is also hit by a string of corruption allegations, involving staff or former staff in the US. It is forced to give up its shareholding in Camelot - but continues to supply the game systems and services

Peter Davis, the Oflot regulator, is also forced to resign after it is revealed that he accepted free hospitality from GTech's Guy Snowdon.

A five strong lottery commission replaces him. Announcing the move Heritage Secretary Chris Smith says the aim is to ensure "that the public has complete confidence in the operation and regulation of the national lottery".

Game on
November 1994: First national lottery draw
March 1995: National Lottery Instants go on sale
March 1996: Lucky Dip launched
February 1997: The midweek draw begins
June 1999: Thunderball launched
1999: new commission
In February the new national lottery commission takes over from OFLOT. The commission publish the guidelines and timeframe for the next lottery and invites bids.

In December Richard Branson uses an appearance on GMTV to announce that he is again bidding to run the lottery on a non-profit basis.

He says he wants to "reinvigorate" the game and get more people playing.

2000: battling for the licence
In February Camelot announces the details of its bid in the city. It campaigns with the slogan: "Only leave one thing to chance".

The group - who say that profit alone is not the issue - stress their efficiency and credibility.

In an attempt to overshadow his rivals Lord Richard arrives at the lottery commission on a giant lottery ball to present his bid.

How your 1 is spent
28p goes to good causes
50p pays the prize money
13p goes to the government
5p goes to the retailer
3p covers operating costs
1p profit goes to Camelot
Branson says there will be no "fat cat" salaries paid to those who would run the not for profit People's Lottery.

Camelot announces that its core sales and profits have declined in the previous financial year. The drop is put down to a 16% fall in sales of scratch cards.

In June there are revelations that a fault in the GTech software used in the National Lottery has led to thousands of people being paid the wrong amount.

The fault was corrected in 1998, but Camelot says GTech did not tell them about the problem.

This embarrassing glitch is revealed just as regulators assess the bids for the new lottery contract. A number of top GTech executives are forced to resign.

The lottery commission delays its decision about the lottery licence until the end of August - telling both bidders to improve their proposals.

In a surprise move the commission announces that neither bid is good enough - but it pledges to work with the People's Lottery to bring theirs up to scratch.

The commission reject Camelots bid saying its confidence has been "seriously shaken" by the software glitch revealed earlier in the year.

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