Many European countries, including Spain, Germany and Ireland, run popular and perfectly legitimate lotteries to raise money for a variety of state concerns. Prizes worth millions of pounds are available.
But it is illegal under the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976 to promote or sell tickets for these lotteries in Britain.
A spokesman for the Department of National Heritage said after Thursday's announcement of plans for a pounds 1m state lottery: 'It is an offence to import these (foreign) lottery tickets and we seize millions of them.
'That prohibition will continue.
'It remains the UK view that controls on lotteries are a matter of social policy and should be left to individual states to decide.'
The National Heritage spokesman said that many other EC member states also restricted the marketing of foreign lotteries in their countries.
However, the Government may yet be forced to relent and open the way for the British to have a much wider choice of lotteries.
HM Customs & Excise is locked in a legal battle that is expected to test the legality of restrictions on cross-border marketing of lotteries in Europe.
Customs officers seized lottery tickets sent to the UK by Jorg Schindler, a sales agent for the German state-supervised Suddeutschen Klassenlotterie. Mr Schindler is defending the subsequent legal action mounted by Customs & Excise on the grounds that the UK's prohibition on the marketing of the German lottery contravenes the Treaty of Rome.
Marian Joseph, a partner with Mr Schindler's UK solicitors, Pannone & Partners, said she did not see how the British government could justify a ban on other European lotteries on competition grounds.
She believed the Government had been concerned about the threat to the football pools from foreign lotteries, but the new national lottery would probably be a greater threat.
'Nine of the 12 EC member states have made submissions to the European Court on this case and this is quite unusual.
'We expect to get a hearing early next year.'
Separately, the European Commission is also reviewing restrictions on the marketing of lotteries.Reuse content