Granada to back bid for 1bn national lottery

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The Independent Online
GRANADA, the television and contract catering group, is set to widen its interests further by backing a bid for the pounds 1bn-a-year national lottery.

The group, headed by Gerry Robinson, has been in talks with a number of the parties interested in running the lottery, including the consortia led by Hambros Bank - which includes Vodafone and the US group Automated Wagering - and by NM Rothschild. The National Lottery Bill, which will establish Britain's first state lottery, is currently passing though Parliament.

Granada's entry into the fray is recent. A banker involved in one of the consortia said: 'Granada have come late to the game, but they have thought out their approach well and what they are offering is highly attractive.'

The offer embraces a ready-made ticket distribution system through Granada motorway service stations and bowling alleys but, more importantly, Granada TV wants to make the weekly prize draw programme for television.

The programme, according to industry experts, could become the most successful show on British television. In countries with large-scale national lotteries, such as Ireland and Spain, the lottery draw consistently tops the television ratings.

The backers of the lottery hope that the show will be given a good spot in the schedules - perhaps a peak viewing time on Saturday nights. Granada would be able to use its power within the ITV network - its former chief executive Andrew Quinn is head of ITV - to win a strong slot.

Granada would also hope to capitalise on its strong position within ITV with the show, adding it to other leading programmes such as Coronation Street, World In Action and You've Been Framed.

The Manchester-based television operation may face some tough competition, though. Central Television, which holds the ITV franchise for the Midlands, is also understood to be in talks with some of the bidders to make the lottery programme, although it is not clear whether it would be prepared to back one of the lottery bids.

The consortia are all trying to tempt Post Office Counters to sign an exclusive contract to sell the lottery tickets through its branches. However, the Post Office is playing its cards close to its chest, and has said it will be willing to negotiate with whichever consortium eventually wins the right to run the lottery.

(Photograph omitted)

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