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Wednesday, 10 January, 2001, 14:47 GMT
At a glance: Lottery saga
As the Lottery Commission announces that Camelot has won the contest to run the National Lottery for the next seven years, BBC News Online looks back over the troubled selection process.

July 1999: The contest begins
It all seemed so simple back when the lottery regulator published the process for granting the new licence to run the National Lottery from 2001 to 2008.

Camelot won the first licence in 1994 and had made a success of lottery, although there was concern in some quarters that it was making too much profit. But despite suggestions in Labour's 1997 manifesto that the lottery should be run by a non-profit operator - the rules for the new licence did not call for this.

December 1999: Branson makes his move
Richard Branson confirmed on breakfast TV that he would be challenging Camelot for the licence to run the lottery. Branson had previously come up against Camelot in hard-fought battle for the first licence - and lost.

Camelot responded by sending a fax to the station that was read out on air. It stressed that by the time the group's seven-year licence finally expired, it would have committed a total of 10bn to good causes, 1bn more than first forecast.

February 2000: The (first) deadline
The deadline for submitting bids to run the lottery arrived. The National Lottery Commission received bids from Camelot Group plc, the People's Lottery Limited and the Charity Consortium.

The commission set about evaluating them. The Charity Consortium later withdrew its bid - leaving the two main contenders.

May 2000: Glitch comes to light
The first suggestion that all was not well. A software problem comes to light after GTech - the company which provides terminals and equipment to Camelot - revealed a glitch that had led to some lottery winners being paid the wrong amounts.

This crucial point later counts against Camelot and contributes to the commission rejecting its bid in August.

June 2000: Must try harder
The commission tells Camelot and Richard Branson to substantially improve their bids. The deadline for the improved bids is moved back to mid-July.

August 2000: It must be who?
The long-awaited day of the lottery announcement finally arrived - or so everyone thought at the time.

But the chair of the National Lottery Commission, Dame Helena Shovelton declared to a packed press conference that neither of the bidders' plans had met the "statutory criteria for granting a licence".

The People's Lottery bid was felt to have had a number of legal uncertainties, with the commission raising doubts about its financial stability. Camelot's relationship to the GTech was questioned, and it was felt the software problems had not been properly resolved.

Both were rejected - but confusingly the commission decided to proceed with just one bidder - the People's Lottery. Camelot were outraged and demanded a judicial inquiry.

September 2000: Camelot wins in court
Camelot won its legal challenge against the Lottery Commission. The regulator's decision-making process was condemned by the High Court as "conspicuously unfair".

The commission responded by sacking the Treasury solicitors who advised them during the selection procedure.

October 2000: Dame Helena resigns
The chair of the National Lottery Commission, Dame Helena Shovelton resigned. She said that she had been personally vilified by the press.

She maintained she had always tried to be fair and was satisfied that she had acted with "complete probity".

Camelot welcomed Dame Helena's resignation saying it was a "step in the right direction to ensure fair competition".

Her replacement was Lord Burns, a former permanent secretary to the Treasury from 1991-1998 and a member of the Lords Select Committee on the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England.

November 2000: Race back on
Both companies were given time to resubmit their applications after the High Court ruling. The commission set about reviewing both bids again and said it hoped to have a decision by mid-December.

19 December 2000: Camelot wins
The Lottery Commission announced that Camelot has won the new licence.

The commission's five members voted 4-1 in favour of Camelot, with one member resigning in protest at the decision.

January 2001: Branson drops challenge
Sir Richard Branson decided not to challenge the commission's decision to pick Camelot.

He said he feared any legal action might damage the lottery and force it to close down for several months.

But he continued to criticise the commission's decision to award the licence to Camelot, calling for an urgent review of the entire process.

The decision was "cowardly" and "substantively unfair" and the entrepreneur said he wanted a full publication of both bids.





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