Branson may launch lottery challenge

Sir Richard Branson was today deciding whether to launch a legal challenge against the decision to wreck his National Lottery dream or launch his own rival game.

The Virgin tycoon has scheduled talks with his lawyers in an attempt to find the best way forward for his People's Lottery.

It follows confirmation yesterday that Sir Richard's team was considering running its own game after being refused the next seven-year licence to run the National Lottery.

Alternatively, Sir Richard could still decide to seek judicial review against the Lottery Commission's decision to allow current operator Camelot to continue its operation.

This morning's meeting also comes on the back of the Commission's decision to pass up an invitation to meet the Virgin boss yesterday.

The Commission said it refused to meet Sir Richard and his team while the "threat of legal proceedings" still loomed.

A People's Lottery spokeswoman said: "We contacted the Commission to attempt a meeting but we did not hear anything back from them.

"The decision now is whether to set up a rival lottery or to seek judicial review. Sir Richard will be meeting with his lawyers to discuss those alternatives."

People's Lottery chief executive Simon Burridge signalled the mood in Sir Richard's camp yesterday by voicing its intention to set up a rival game.

He said: "It is something we are investigating.

"The reason the People's Lottery joined the contest in the first place was to try to maximise the amount of money that went to good causes.

"Given the huge fall-off in sales, as witnessed by the Big Draw, (that) indicates that actually if nothing were done about it then the real risk is that good causes would suffer unduly and obviously we would need to look at something to redress that.

"The size of our postbag indicates that what people are completely disenchanted with Camelot and their games and the process by which the U-turn decision was made."

Mr Burridge said a rival lottery would be able to offer significant prizes.

"There would be million pound winners," he added. "Ultimately, our decision will depend on whether or not we think that launching such an alternative would increase the amount of money that goes to good causes. It is a not-for-profit bid."

The Commission reacted angrily to Mr Burridge's charge that it had not been open about the decision-making process for the next licence.

It also rejected allegations that it had not properly explained the reasons for that decision.

Spokesman Mark Slattery said: "We do not agree with The People's Lottery that we have not explained our decision.

"It was published by us in plain English, in detail, in black and white for everybody to read.

"This explains very clearly why the Commission reached its decision."

Camelot also replied to Mr Burridge's claims. A spokeswoman said that ticket sales for the December 23 draw were £96.4 million - up £200,000 from the previous week.

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