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Sunday, November 22, 1998 Published at 02:48 GMT


UK

Camelot - it might not be you

Taking a bet: Camelot will have to beat off others for lottery licence


The BBC's Tony McMahon: The future is not looking too rosy for Camelot
The UK Government has confirmed that it might be seeking a new National Lottery operator to replace Camelot.

Speaking shortly after appearing on the lottery's fourth birthday show, which carried a £25m jackpot, the Culture and Media Secretary Chris Smith said Camelot will not automatically have its contract renewed when it expires in 2001.

He told BBC News 24: "When the franchise that they have at the moment comes to an end in 2001, we'll be making sure that there is a strong competition."

Mr Smith said the government wanted to see bids coming in from other potential operators.


[ image: Chris Smith: Plans to make lottery
Chris Smith: Plans to make lottery "even better"
"Camelot will be tested very strongly against the crucial question, which is will they be raising enough for good causes," he said.

The culture secretary said that Camelot had run the lottery "not badly" - the game having so far raised £6bn for good causes.

But he added: "You must remember also that they have, for example, a pretty open-ended profit process in place."

Mr Smith said the government would like to see "a different calculation of how the operator is remunerated so we get even more money coming into the good causes rather than rolling up into the operator's coffers".


Culture Secretary Chris Smith: Lottery has been a great success but it can be better
He conceded that a charitable operator running the lottery on a non-profit basis might also be considered for the contract, such as the scheme previously proposed by Virgin boss Richard Branson.

But like Camelot, if Mr Branson submitted a proposal for the lottery he too would be tested on whether he could raise enough money for the good causes, Mr Smith warned.

The culture secretary also restated his commitment to spread the benefits of lottery funding more broadly around the country.

Public to take a stake

And writing in the News of the World newspaper, he said a new Lottery Commission was being set up to give members of the public a say on how the competition is run.

He added: "The Lottery Commission will have a special job to do when the time comes to choose a new lottery operator after 2001."

The commission would help ensure that in three years' time there would be "a lottery that continues to give best value for players, for prize winners and good causes".

Since Labour took power in May 1997 the party has been committed to seeking to spread the benefits of the lottery more widely.

Setbacks

Camelot has often had a rocky ride during its time as the UK's lottery operator, and it has suffered a series of setbacks this year alone.

Earlier this month rival firm Littlewoods accused Camelot of intimidating retailers to keep out the competition.

In a letter to the Office of Fair Trading, Littlewoods said Camelot threatened to disconnect lottery terminals if newsagents and other retailers stocked Littlewoods' and other rival scratchcards.

Camelot also suffered intense media criticism after announcing record profits of £80m in June.

And it took another knock in February when Richard Branson won a libel victory against Guy Snowden, the former Chairman of GTech, Camelot's parent company.

Mr Branson was awarded £100,000 after the High Court heard that Mr Snowden tried to bribe him into pulling out of the race to run the lottery. Mr Snowden resigned from GTech after losing the case.





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