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Thursday, 21 September, 2000, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Camelot wins Lottery challenge
Camelot chief executive designate Dianne Thompson
Camelot boss Dianne Thompson said she was "back in the race"
Camelot has won its legal challenge to the decision to exclude it from the contest to run the National Lottery for the next seven years.

The company had said the decision by the Lottery Commission to hold talks solely with Sir Richard Branson's consortium, the People's Lottery, after rejecting applications from both bidders, was unfair.

Mr Justice Richards held that the commission's decision to negotiate exclusively with the People's Lottery was unlawful and must be quashed.

Camelot has been seeking an injunction preventing a new licence being granted until it has had a chance to negotiate with the commission.

The People's Lottery indicated that it would not be seeking an appeal.

'Conspicuous unfairness'

Mr Justice Richards said in his ruling: "I find it remarkable that in those circumstances the commission chose to allow the People's Lottery the opportunity to allay its concerns but to deny a similar opportunity to Camelot.

"Such a marked lack of even-handedness between the rival bidders calls for the most compelling justification, which I cannot find in the reasons advanced by the commission in support of its decision."

His ruling also stated: "The commission adopted a procedure that resulted in conspicuous unfairness to Camelot - such unfairness has rendered the decision unlawful.

"The decision will therefore be quashed."

He added that he was unimpressed with the argument that Camelot's new proposals constituted a "second and unfair bite of the cherry".

Camelot was awarded its costs against the commission but an application by GTech, which also made submissions to the court, was refused.

Cameolot chief executive designate outside High Court
Dianne Thompson: "We are back in the race"
Dianne Thompson, Camelot's chief executive designate, said of the High Court ruling: "We are absolutely delighted."

She said she thought the commission's decision had been "grossly unfair" and "unlawful".

She added: " We are back in the race, which is all that we wanted."

But National Lottery Commission chief executive Mark Harris said the organisation was "naturally disappointed" by the ruling.

He said the commission "would have preferred to clarify the matter in appeal but has decided after careful consideration it is more important to end the uncertainty that has been hanging over the bidding process".

Camelot, the current operator, was one of two bidders for a new licence to operate the National Lottery from 1 October 2001

Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson: Respects court's decision
Sir Richard's group has already been given a month to raise an extra 50m in guaranteed funds.

Sir Richard said the People's Lottery "obviously respects the court's decision" but that he remained confident "we have delivered the best bid".

Camelot told the High Court that it too should have been given a month to improve its bid.

The court decision means Camelot will be given 30 days from 25 September to speak to the Lottery Commission and allay fears that existed with its bid originally.

The judge was keen to stress that after the month is up, the next step would be "a matter for assessment and decision by the commission in the light of the circumstances then prevailing".

Neither Downing Street nor the Department for Culture, Media and Sport was prepared to comment.

"It is entirely a matter for the National Lottery Commission," a DCMS spokesman said.

'Ruling not unexpected'

He explained that under the terms of the 1998 National Lottery Act, ministers are not involved in the process of selecting an operator which is responsibility of the commission.

Shadow culture secretary Peter Ainsworth said the High Court ruling was not unexpected.

"Many people would agree that the decision to kick Camelot out of the contest to allow the People's Lottery to continue was unfair, so the outcome of this case is no surprise," he said.

He added that it was a further example of the way Culture Secretary Chris Smith's department had degenerated into "shambles".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"The smart money is still on a new lottery operator taking over"
Sir Richard Branson, People's Lottery
"We don't believe this will change the ultimate outcome"
Dianne Thompson, Camelot's chief executive designate
"I owe it to our 800 staff that we actually get back in this race"
Conservative Vice-Chairman, Tim Collins
"Chris Smith has gone into hiding"

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19 Sep 00 | Business
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