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Wednesday, 20 December, 2000, 09:36 GMT
Branson delays appeal decision
Lottery machine
Is there one final spin of the wheel left for Sir Richard?
Sir Richard Branson will decide in the New Year whether to contest the reselection of Camelot to run the National Lottery for another seven years.

The Virgin tycoon and People's Lottery boss told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he did not blame the government for the "mess" of the decision.

But he added: "We could have got hundreds of thousands of people back playing the lottery if they had known that more money was going to good causes."

On his way to join his family on holiday, Sir Richard said a decision would be taken next month whether to challenge the Lottery Commission's 4-1 vote in favour of the existing operator.

His comments came as Camelot announced it had struck a deal with internet service provider Freeserve to allow people to buy lottery tickets online.

Sir Richard has already said he was "extremely disappointed" and "baffled" by the Commission's decision, and accused the government of breaking an election pledge by failing to ensure that the game was operated as a non profit-making concern.

Sir Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson: 'Sad, disappointed and baffled'
Sir Richard had said a legal challenge was a "serious possibility".

Meanwhile Culture Secretary Chris Smith has indicated that he is unhappy with the process for deciding which company should run the National Lottery.

Mr Smith called for a better process to consider rival operators after Camelot's bid was accepted.

He said: "Of course the process has problems. Once the dust has settled we need to look at how this happened, what went wrong and how we can do it better next time."

However he said the Lottery Commission had done what it was meant to do by choosing the bid that would give most to good causes without any ministerial or political interference.

Lottery Commission chairman Lord Burns was asked on Tuesday to take a fresh view of the bidding, after a process in which Camelot won a High Court battle claiming its bid had not been fairly treated.

While the commissioners acknowledged that the People's Lottery not-for-profit bid could see more money go to charity, they highlighted uncertainty in achievable sales and greater risks in terms of financial soundness and costs.

But one commissioner, Hilary Blume, tendered her resignation in protest at the decision.

Controversial process

Sir Richard said the presence of the People's Lottery bid had forced Camelot to improve the good causes aspect of their bid, but criticised both the government and Lottery Commission chairman Lord Burns.

Hilary Blume
Commissioner Hilary Blume resigned in protest
Camelot chief executive Dianne Thompson defended the company's track record and said "exciting" elements in the bid and a solution to "the GTech problem" had helped in its success.

"There is an awful lot of work to be done," she said. "We are confident we can achieve the increase in sales we have said."

She added that in the event of potential legal action, she hoped a speedy resolution would be reached for the sake of all parties.

After tendering her resignation, Ms Blume maintained that the bid by Sir Richard's consortium had had a better "game plan and marketing".

She added that the People's Lottery bid had been backed by better technology, and criticised Camelot's reliance on GTech.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Emma Simpson
"Smiles all round at Camelot's headquarters"
Sir Richard Branson, People's Lottery
"The only postive thing is that Camelot have had to sharpen their pencil"
Dianne Thompson, chief executive of Camelot
"It was a combination of our track record and the exciting things in our bid"

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20 Dec 00 | Business
20 Dec 00 | Entertainment
19 Dec 00 | UK Politics
19 Dec 00 | Business
24 Aug 00 | UK Politics
05 Oct 00 | UK
19 Dec 00 | UK Politics
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