Bottomley to discuss lottery with churches

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The Independent Online

Church leaders are to have talks with Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, to express their concern over the size of the lottery jackpots. They have condemned the cash as "obscene", following this week's double rollover - the second this month - which may exceed pounds 40m.

The delegation of churchmen, led by the Rt Rev David Sheppard, the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, will include Methodist, Baptist and Roman Catholic representatives. They claim that the lottery is encouraging greed and building a nation of hopeless dreamers and gamblers.

Among the most outspoken critics is the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, who condemned the first rollover. He welcomed the announcement of the meeting last night. "I hope that Mrs Bottomley listens carefully and there is a practical outcome," he said.

But Camelot, the lottery operator, was anxious to stress that the second rollover was a statistical fluke. According to the company two consecutive double rollovers should only occur every 400 years.

The last double rollover created lottery mania with 90 per cent of the adult population, nearly 40 million people, buying tickets. The pounds 42m jackpot was eventually shared by three winners on 6 January.

"It's a very surprising result to have another double rollover so soon after the first," said David Rigg, Camelot's director of communications. "Statistically we would only expect a double rollover once every three years. We expect another week of great excitement." The last double rollover created such demand for tickets that Camelot's computer system and 20,000 machines broke down for 20 minutes, causing chaos.

Mr Rigg urged to the public to buy their tickets as early in the week as possible this time to avoid a last-minute rush.

But church leaders' anxiety has been fuelled by the lottery fever generated by the massive prizes. They called for a meeting with Mrs Bottomley earlier in the month after the first double rollover. They have called for prizes to be capped, and for scratch cards to be dropped altogether, despite Mrs Bottomley's claim that the success of the lottery has provided more money for good causes.

t Lottery numbers drawn last Saturday were: 5, 23, 25, 30, 33, 37. The bonus was 3.