Branson in call for creation of no-profit People's Lottery

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The Independent Online
Richard Branson last night called for the dissolution of the Camelot consortium and the establishment of a new National Lottery. He spoke to Andrew Buncombe following his libel battle victory against Guy Snowden and the resignation of the lottery regulator Peter Davis.

More people would play the lottery if it was not run for profit, evidence brought in the libel case had demonstrated, Mr Branson said last night, and suggested it should be renamed the People's Lottery. "The Government had pledged to operate the lottery for no profit. I hope that any backtracking that may have gone on will come to an end. I think that naming it the People's Lottery would give it a fresh start."

He feels that in order to restore public faith there must be a fundamental overhaul of the lottery's operation. "Yesterday [Monday] both the regulator, Peter Davis, and Camelot misled the public by saying this was an argument between two individuals. That was not the case. GTech were found as guilty as Mr Snowden. If Mr Snowden has to resign then GTech has to step down as well," he said.

"It may be easier, and there is enough ground for doing so, to take the shareholders away altogether, get rid of Camelot and for a period of time let the staff continue to operate it.

"I think to restore public faith GTech has to go and it may be as well to get rid of all the shareholders and dissolve the Camelot consortium."

Snacking on toast and Marmite in the drawing room of his offices in west London, Mr Branson repeated that he no longer wanted to run the lottery. "I still believe that what I do is set up companies, get good people in and get things running. I would be delighted to help, but personally I don't feel they need me. There are plenty of very good people around the world and whether I am involved or not is really an irrelevance."

He said he had been convinced that if the lottery was to continue to be a success the regulator, Peter Davis, had to stand down. "Mr Davis put out a statement saying what I had said was untrue. I honestly didn't think he could stay on."

Mr Branson said that during the libel trial, which he had initiated against Mr Snowden after the American businessman denied trying to bribe him to drop his bid to run the National Lottery for no profit, he had suffered from a "bad press" campaign launched by his detractors.

"Was it a coincidence that on the first day of the trial all these private letters between myself and Elton John should suddenly appear?" he said. "There is no doubt that things were being fed to journalists."

Mr Branson, 47, who is to donate his pounds 100,000 damages to charity, said he was used to the backlash his gestures sometimes brought. "There is no question the times I have been criticised in my life have been for doing things not to make money but to help the community. If I simply set up companies to make lots of money people would not mind." But he said when the criticism stood in the way of what he was trying to do, it was "very annoying".