THE Lottery is now the acceptable face of gambling in Britain and there was little interest in yesterday's announcement that the National Lottery Commission had awarded Camelot, the incumbent operator, a further 10year licence which will come into effect in 2009. Thus by 2019 Camelot will have run Britain's Lottery for 25 years since it was awarded the founding licence in 1994. The only other bidder was the Indian company Sugal & Damani which is a major lottery operator in India; although it apparently made a good impression and was named preferred reserved bidder there seemed to be none of the keen infighting of the kind that characterised the competition between Camelot and Virgin on the last occasion.
Apart from the number and size of the prizes, public interest focusses on the amount of money that the Lottery generates for what are loosely called good causes. Camelot committed itself to handing over 22 billion pounds in the next ten years from ticket sales of 77 billion. However, it is not always clear how good causes are defined and by whom. Currently there are worries that the government would like to raid the Lottery for more than the 2.2 billion it has already guaranteed for the London Olympics. With the vote of confidence that a third licence implies, and acting in the best interests of its punters, Camelot should resist incursions that imply it is a division of the Treasury rather than an independent organisation.