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Sunday, 6 February, 2000, 18:43 GMT
Battle lines drawn for lottery licence

Richard Branson and lottery balls New balls please: Lottery Commission wants fresh ideas

The way the National Lottery is run could change completely next year if a different company wins the licence.

Camelot has held the licence, issued by the government, since the lottery was launched in 1994.

But the company's seven-year contract runs out in a year's time and last September bidding was opened for the next term.

The government has made it plain it would like to see a non-profit making organisation take on the mantle of the twice-weekly game.

Since it took the licence, Camelot has come under fire for its profits exceeding its donations to good causes.

ticket Style of the game may change
The "fat cat" slur seems likely to stick despite a 1998 survey which found Camelot gave more to good causes than any other of the 34 national lotteries monitored.

Sir Richard Branson, whose company Virgin failed in its bid to run the lottery in 1994, has been a vociferous opponent of Camelot's handling of the game.

But currently the entrepreneur, who favours a non-profit-making lottery, looks like the most serious challenger to Camelot. He has teamed up with mighty Microsoft chairman Bill Gates to try to win the race for the licence.

Fresh ideas

As many as seven bids could be landing on the desk of Brian Pomeroy, Chair of lottery regulator the National Lottery Commission.

Apart from Virgin and Camelot, companies which have expressed an interest include media bodies Granada and Carlton Communications.

Pools operator Littlewoods had expressed an interest but pulled out in September.

The National Lottery Commission has stressed that Camelot will be applying for a new licence, not a renewal of its existing contract.

The regulator has also emphasised that it is looking for fresh ideas. "We do not want the same lottery in perpetuity," a statement on the next licence said.

More for good causes

The commission also stipulated that earnings for the next licence-holder would be linked to the amount raised for good causes instead of sales, as they are now.

The deadline for bids to run the lottery is the end of February, with selection taking place by the end of June.

In the five years it has been running there have been more than 25bn tickets sold and more than 900 millionaires created.

Camelot's profit take is currently restricted to 1% of sales.

Camelot has said it is on course to have raised 10bn for good causes when its licence expires in September 2001.

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See also:
06 Feb 00 |  Business
Lottery team-up for Gates and Branson
12 Dec 99 |  Business
Virgin lottery bid due
12 Nov 99 |  The Company File
The rise, fall and rise of Camelot
12 Nov 99 |  UK
When is a cause a good cause?
30 Sep 99 |  The Company File
Lottery licence bids open

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