Lunchtime marks the deadline for bids and to ensure proceedings remain orderly each applicant has been given a time to arrive.
Only eight serious bidders have declared their hand so far. But the amount of paperwork involved is huge - each applicant must provide 21 copies of its documentation, each of which is expected to run to thousands of sheets.
At Camelot, for example, which yesterday announced the appointment of David Clark, secretary-general of the international lottery trade association AILE, as its Lottery operations director, a 'production team' spent the weekend assembling more than 65,000 separate pages into 21 files weighing more than half a tonne.
Companies are also planning to use the occasion to generate publicity. Richard Branson and Lord Young are to submit their Lottery Foundation bid accompanied by the racehorse Desert Orchid.
Peter Davis, Oflot director, is expected to announce a winner in May so that the lottery can be running by the end of the year.
Sales of up to pounds 4bn a year are expected. About half is likely to go on prizes, with 12 per cent taken in tax and 23 per cent spent on 'good causes' including arts, sport, charities and a Millennium Fund to celebrate the year 2000. The remaining 15 per cent will be left for the operator's running costs and profits.
The main contenders are:
Camelot - GTECH, De la Rue, Cadbury Schweppes and Racal.
Great British Lottery - Granada, Vodafone, Associated Newspapers, Carlton Communications and Hambros Bank.
Games for Good Causes - Ladbroke and MAI.
Rothschild and Tattersall's.
Thorn EMI and GEC.
Rainbow, a non-profit-making consortium led by Sir Patrick Sheehy and Leo Burnett.
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content