A ticket to ride, yes, but not one for the lottery

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The Independent Online
COMMUTERS HOPING to win a fortune on the National Lottery will now find it harder to buy their tickets from airports, rail terminals and Tube stations.

The machines which issue the tickets have been removed from all John Menzies travel branches because they were hindering customers in a hurry to buy newspapers.

WH Smith, which bought John Menzies earlier this year, said not enough people were buying tickets to justify keeping the on-line version of the lottery game in these shops, and that customers complained of long queues as ticket-buyers filled in their numbers.

The lottery machines were in 50 branches of John Menzies, and Camelot has now reallocated them to other retailers. The decision will not affect the company's 240 other lottery ticket machines in its high-street branches, where there is enough space to have a separate queue for people buying lottery tickets.

Camelot has seen overall sales of lottery tickets rise from pounds 4.7bn in 1997 to pounds 5.5bn this year compared with scratchcard sales, which have fallen from pounds 44m a year at their peak to pounds 14m in March this year. However, WH Smith said its travel shops were aimed at customers who wanted to buy newspapers and magazines in a hurry and that the lottery machines were hindering them.

It now intends to focus on magazines, books and newspapers in its 50 John Menzies branches, and in its own travel shops, which have never provided lottery machines.

"The average size of these stores is small," said a spokeswoman. "Having the machines increases the lengths of queues which is incredibly inconvenient for customers who want to dash in and buy a paper.

"We are focusing on what our customers want, and part of that includes getting in and out of shops as quickly as possible."

Camelot said it had been fully consulted about the decision, taken at the end of last month, and said there was a "huge waiting list" of other retailers wanting to install its on-line game.

A spokesman said that commuters could still buy tickets at stations and airports from Infoplace kiosks, the Post Office and from other newsagents. "It was a mutual agreement and the machines have now been moved. As far as we are aware, sales were good in these Menzies branches, as they are at all these types of shops."

Smith's decision to get rid of its lottery machines in travel outlets has been welcomed by other retailers. The Martin Retail Group has the largest chain of on-line lottery outlets, with machines in 460 stores.

"The lottery is good news for us and if a lottery branch closes down then we will apply for the use of the machine. There is no proof that it brings people into the shops, but we don't want to lose out to the shop down the road," said a spokeswoman.