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UK Lottery operator plans $500 million global lottery game

Aug 9, 2007, 2:17 pm

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'American states' are in talks to participate in the Christmastime mega-draw

Camelot, the operator of the UK National Lottery, is poised to launch a worldwide draw with a record jackpot of about £250m (US $500 million), now that it apparently won a new 10-year license this week.

The company was named on Tuesday as the "preferred bidder" for a license to run from 2009, after fending off a bid from Sugal & Damani, an Indian rival.

It is the third victory for Camelot, which has run the lottery since it started in 1994. Critics claim the company now has a virtual monopoly on the UK game.

Participants in the new annual "mega draw" will be vying for a jackpot twice the size of the £125m (US $250 million) top prize won so far in the multi-country Euro Millions game.

EuroMillions is played across nine countries, but Camelot says it has been discussing its worldwide game with a further 39 nations and American states.

The jackpot draw, which is likely to coincide with a big holiday such as Christmas, will run alongside monthly global draws that will each create up to 100 millionaires.

Individual lottery numbers are likely to be drawn separately from across the continents and broadcast live on television. Tickets purchased in Britain will generate income for lottery good causes at home.

The overall size of the annual jackpot will be dictated by the number of countries that decide to take part in the competition, although insiders are confident it will be in the "hundreds of millions".

Those hoping to scoop the top prize, however, ought to bear in mind that they will probably face odds well in excess of 100 million to one.

Plans for the global draw formed the centerpiece of Camelot's submission to the National Lottery Commission (NLC), the industry watchdog.

To date, the largest single lottery payout has been to Andrew Whittaker, a builder from West Virginia, who won £197m in the multi-state US Powerball game in 2002.

The NLC claims the battle for the third lottery license has been "highly competitive", but industry analysts believe it would have taken "a miracle" for Sugal & Damani to defeat Camelot.

Sir Richard Branson decided against bidding for the new license after claiming that the incumbent was a "shoo-in". His People's Lottery lost out to Camelot following an acrimonious legal dispute the last time the license came up for grabs.

The NLC will finalize contracts and officially award the new license to the winner by the end of the month. Camelot refused to comment.

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