Bids to run lottery will be kept secret

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The Independent Online
COMPANIES that want to bid for the right to run the National Lottery will have to keep details of their applications secret. Peter Davis, the director-general of the National Lottery, said yesterday that all applicants would be obliged to sign a confidentiality clause.

Publishing the draft documents containing the proposed tender conditions, he said he wanted to avoid a 'public auction'. He was worried that a debate about the respective merits of various bids would make it 'extremely difficult for me to do my job properly'. Bidders might seek to publicise their applications 'in the best possible light'. Moreover, the information would be 'commercially sensitive'.

However, a spokesman for one potential bidder, the Great British Lottery Company, a consortium that includes Granada, the television group, and Hambros bank, said it would have no objection to details of its bid becoming public and open to debate.

Aggressive lobbying could be avoided by following the approach taken by the radio authority in its recent award of radio licences, when it barred interested parties from engaging in active marketing, he added.

Another potential bidder said information about the bids was bound to leak. 'At the end of the day it's better for Mr Davis to accept that and control the process.'

Potential bidders have until the end of November to comment on the draft 108- page tender document and the 95-page draft lottery operator's licence. Tenders will be invited in mid-December, and will have to be submitted by 14 February.

Mr Davis expects to name the winner in April and to grant a licence, which will run until the end of March 2001, by June. The lottery is likely to be operating by the end of the year.

Individuals and corporate bidders will be vetted by the Office of the National Lottery, and government departments will be expected to provide information on applicants.

'We have to ensure that this lottery is run in a way which is not in any sense sleazy,' Mr Davis said.

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