Mark Harris, the commission’s chief executive, is taking soundings on how to get around this, perhaps by inviting tenders for different games or by leaving the technology side – the difficult bit – in place and going for the best marketing plan.
When the original licence was put out to tender in 1993, you could hardly move for the great and good clamouring for a slice. Sir Richard Branson was there, parading an unruly Desert Orchid. Michael Green, the Carlton Communications supremo, was part of The Great British Lottery Company.
Woodrow Wyatt, the raving right-winger, presided over something that included GEC and the Tote.
It all ended in victory for Camelot, which, 10 years ago this month, was just starting to create the lottery infrastructure.
When the second licence went out to tender in 1999, only Sir Richard felt strongly enough to tackle Camelot. He had the public on his side with his ‘not-for-profit’ cry, but the decision finally went Camelot’s way. Above all, the government was – and is – terrified that the technology side of the lottery could collapse in a handover, cutting off the flow of all those millions for good causes.
The lottery commission intends to spend most of this year seeking feedback on how to drum up some competition in the next licence round. It will have to come up with something very clever.
- Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times.