Future of UK Lottery Remains a Mystery

8 September 2000
Camelot and The People's Lottery, the two finalists for rights to run the U.K. National Lottery, can both attest to the believe that "getting there is half the battle." A number of problems have hindered the two companies in their continued fight to win the coveted licensing rights.

Camelot, the current license holder, seemed the more likely winner until it was revealed that officials at GTECH, Camelot's technical provider, had hidden information about a glitch that affected thousands of players' payouts. Fallout from the scandal appeared to give The People's Lottery a lock on the license.

The People's Lottery, led by Virgin's Sir Richard Branson, however, wasn't awarded the license either. Instead, the National Lottery Commission made an amazing announcement: Neither company was awarded the license. Camelot was completely dropped from consideration over concerns about GTECH. The People's Lottery, meanwhile, was given a 30-day deadline to address concerns the Commission had about the supplier's application.

So, does this mean The People's Lottery will receive the license? Not necessarily. Even though Branson promised to provide a £50 million financial safety net for the lottery, a new problem has surfaced: The consortium's own technical supplier, Automated Wagering International (AWI), is having a few technical problems of its own. AWI had to pay fines to the Maryland lottery for providing faulty software, while an AWI system used by the Minnesota state lottery has failed testing two years in a row.

In the meantime, Camelot has decided to purchase GTECH UK, alleviating at least one concern expressed by the lottery commission. "We think this takes GTECH out of the equation completely," a Camelot spokesman told The Independent. Plus, Camelot officials pushed for a judicial review of the lottery commission's decision. During the review Camelot CEO Tim Holley requested copies of all correspondence between the National Lottery Commission and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, as well as documents regarding The People's Lottery. The request rose out of concerns that the culture secretary had pressured the Commission into deciding against Camelot.

In a letter to the Commission, which was obtained by The Telegraph, Camelot wrote:

What we are concerned about is that the process has suddenly become very opaque. Everyone has the right to know exactly how the commission came to its decision and whether it has been done in the best interests of the National Lottery.

Thanks to these recent developments, it might be a while before the Commission finally awards the license. Two deadlines have already passed by with no decision. Maybe it's time to lay odds on whether the license will even be awarded this year.