The Return of Camelot

22 September 2000
The U.K. National Lottery Commission's decision to reject Camelot's bid for the National Lottery license has caused yet another uproar. The British High Court today announced that Camelot's bid for the seven-year lottery license had been unfairly dropped in favor of The People's Lottery consortium, which is fronted by Virgin's Sir Richard Branson. In addition, the Commission's application for permission to appeal the decision was denied.

"The Commission, while intending to be fair, has decided on a procedure that results in conspicuous unfairness to Camelot--such unfairness as to render the decision unlawful," the High Court said. Justice Richards added, "The ultimate question is whether something has gone wrong of a nature and degree which requires intervention of the court. In my judgement it has. Accordingly, I hold that the Commission's decision to negotiate exclusively with TPL (The People's Lottery) was unlawful and must be quashed."

Awarding the lottery license has proven difficult for the National Lottery Commission. The two applicants, Camelot and The People's Lottery, competed for the previous license, which was eventually awarded to Camelot. While competing both times, the two companies have quarreled bitterly, and engaged in legal maneuverings, including an accusation by Branson that a Camelot official had attempted to bribe him to drop his bid, eventually resulting in that executive's departure.

Most recently Camelot was dropped from consideration after it was revealed that a technical supplier's glitch, which was kept hidden for several years, had affected thousands of payouts. Although Camelot wasn't responsible for the glitch or its subsequent cover-up, the Commission decided against Camelot over concerns about its continued relationship with the technical supplier, GTECH.

Following the court's decision, the National Lottery Commission responded, "At all times the Commission's goal has been to ensure the propriety of the lottery and to protect the interests of players and Good Causes. When the Commission brought the competition for the new license to a close in August, after an exhaustive process, it was because both bids had defects."

The Commission's decision at that time was to negotiate another month with The People's Lottery based upon both their objectives, and the need to swiftly make a decision. Today's court ruling, however, requires Camelot to be given another month for continued licensing negotiations, giving Camelot equal consideration as The People's Lottery for finally winning the new license.