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Tuesday, June 2, 1998 Published at 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK


Camelot profits attacked

The numbers have come up for Camelot but many are angry

Members of both the clergy and parliament are concerned about the increased profits
The National Lottery operator Camelot has once again come under fire after announcing record profits last year - £80m before tax.

The operator, which reported a 14% rise in profits despite a slump in sales of scratchcards, attempted to ward off accusations of greed by stressing that it was giving to good causes.

The Culture Secretary Chris Smith refused to comment on the £80m profits but a Labour member of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee, John Maxton, said all of the money should have gone to good causes.

He told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme he did not object to the lottery itself "but it ought to be run to ensure that all the money goes to good causes".

"It could have been set up to be run by a non-profit making body so that all profits would have gone to the good causes."

Mr Maxton called on the government to ensure that the next Lottery franchise went to such a body.

And he said it was "mythology" to claim Camelot staff needed big salaries, although they could be paid in non-profit making organisations.

"It's the money going to shareholders that is the problem," he added.

[ image: Contributions to good causes have topped £1.5bn]
Contributions to good causes have topped £1.5bn
Salary packages for the company's directors rose just 1% to £2.4m after last year's 40% pay hikes caused political controversy.

Contributions to good causes went up 23% to £1.566bn.

Salaries up

Executive directors saw their overall packages rise by between 2% and 19%. But performance related bonuses, based on the previous year's performance, fell 16%, reflecting last year's drop in profits to £70.8m.

Finance director Peter Murphy pre-empted any attack on the company's record profits by saying the salary bill represented less than 1p in every pound spent on the lottery.

He also pointed out that money to good causes had risen and that the total proportion of money going to the government in lottery duty, tax and the National Lottery Distribution Fund was up 1.5%.

"I think we will always be accused of making too much profit. But at less than 1p in the pound and in the context of the amount of money that's going to the good causes, I think our profits are absolutely reasonable.

"The average amount returned to governments by the top 30 lotteries in the world is 35%. We're returning around 6% more than that - that's £330m more - real money.

Directors had also agreed to pay undisclosed proportions of their bonuses to charity. Mr Murphy said he would be "very surprised" if directors did not continue to give money to charity, but the amounts would remain private.

Great reservations

But the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Richard Harries, chairman of the Church of England Board for Social Responsibility, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the level of profits was not welcome.

He said: "The churches still have the very gravest reservations about the whole lottery enterprise. It's not a puritan objection to gambling, to a little flutter.

"It's a national obsession, with big prizes creating a fantasy or myth that people's lives will be dramatically changed.

"Therefore there is a spiritual damage being done to the country by the lottery and these big profits bring this to the fore again."

He added: "I think the very large profits for this time will raise the question in people's minds: is a high enough percentage going on good causes?"

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