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The Money Programme Saturday, 19 February, 2000, 12:33 GMT
More 20/02/00
Winner Takes All

The UK's National Lottery, the world's biggest, is widely seen as an extraordinary success. Set up just 6 years ago, so far it's raised close to 8 billion pounds for good causes, and it's created 900 millionaires.

At the end of this month the licence to operate this gigantic lottery business will be up for grabs. At stake are hundreds of jobs and potentially millions of pounds in rewards for the companies involved in the bids. For the next seven year licence term, there can be only one operator. The name of the game is winner takes all.

Reporter Lesley Curwen looks at the prospects of the two front runners in the lottery race; Camelot, a powerful consortium of top companies such as ICL and Racal which has operated The National Lottery since its launch in 1995. And the People's Lottery, led by Sir Richard Branson, with big names like Microsoft on board.

The decision on who will run the Lottery next will be made by the independent Lottery Commission. Camelot 's case will refer to its record so far. It's on track to beat its official target for raising money for Good Causes. The Peoples Lottery meanwhile has pledged to donate its profits to Good Causes.

The Money Programme probes the accusations of sleaze and fat cattery which have tarnished Camelot's record, and examines the reasons behind a recent fall in lottery ticket sales. And it challenges Sir Richard Branson on his claim that his Virgin empire, which is quite separate from the Peoples Lottery, will not gain financially if his bid is succesful.

Both bidders claim that they want to make the lottery more fun. But there are dangers. Gambling expert Sue Fisher argues that "more fun is just a euphemism for more addictive. Because the minute you try to make games more exciting, they inevitably become more addictive. All the features of gambling which are excitement, things like a short span of play, a very arousing game, the opportunity to immediate replay, are the components that make games very addictive. And it's inevitable that if you increase the supply of those games, you'll increase the number of problem gamblers."

Links to more The Money Programme stories are at the foot of the page.


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