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Corridors of power...

What does Dianne Thompson, chief executive of lottery operator Camelot, have in common with PY Gerbeau, the loveable 'gerbil' who ran the Dome? A trendy hairstyle for one, though PY, with his gelled spikey look, is in a class of his own on the folical front.

I had cause to observe both mullets up close recently: Thompson on the announcement that Camelot will bid for a third lottery licence (no surprise there) and Gerbeau on the eve of his marriage to Kate Sanderson, the Sky television presenter.

Thompson, sporting a new, raked-back look, has good reason to feel satisfied. Although sales of the main lottery game have plateaued, Camelot’s strategy of pursuing growth through new game channels – lottery via mobile phone, for instance – has paid off handsomely. Sales via interactive channels have already topped £2m a week. New initiatives include having lottery tickets printed out with your grocery shop at Tesco.

Where most lotteries go into a decline after the initial euphoria, Camelot has bucked the trend. Sales grew by £150m last year to £4.8bn. The year before, sales grew by just £40m. The gains give Camelot a strong platform on which to retain the licence when it comes up for renewal in 2009.

Gerbeau is also in the leisure business. Frustrated in his plans to turn the Dome into a sport and entertainment venue, he is applying the model to X-Leisure, an operator of attractions built around cinemas and ski slopes.

One of his venues, Xscape near Leeds, is Yorkshire’s biggest visitor attraction – less than two years after opening.

Gerbeau and Thompson each have a great instinct for giving customers what they want. The hairstyles are a bonus.

Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times

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