Branson considers new bid for 'non-profit' lottery

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The Independent Online

Virgin chairman Richard Branson today announced he is considering a new bid to take over the running of the National Lottery on a non-profit basis.

Virgin chairman Richard Branson today announced he is considering a new bid to take over the running of the National Lottery on a non-profit basis.

He made the announcement after he joined Spice Girl Melanie C in abseiling down a new Virgin Megastore in Glasgow to mark its official opening.

The National Lottery Commissioners yesterday published the ground rules for bids to take over Camelot's licence, which is due to run out next year.

Mr Branson said he was very actively considering the rules and hoped to announce "within the next 10 days" if he would apply to operate the Lottery.

He failed in a bid to run the licence when the National Lottery began when it was awarded to profit-making Camelot.

"We have always felt passionately that with the National Lottery being a licence to print money, 100% of its profits should go to good causes," said Mr Branson.

"We were saddened, as were most of the public, that a company like Camelot should be given a licence to run it at vast profit," he added.

"Within the next 10 days we will decide if a people's lottery should be created to compete with Camelot for the Lottery.

"If we were to run it, it would not be as Virgin but a lottery foundation.

"We are talking about hundreds of millions of pounds going to good causes.

"It would be a charitable foundation run as a business pledging 100% of the profit to charity."

Mr Branson said he was considering the rules and seeking clarification from the Commissioners on some aspects of them.

"We are currently in negotiation over these," he said, but would not go into detail of what stumbling blocks had been found.

Mr Branson's plan for a non-profit making Lottery was rejected by the previous Conservative government, but was supported by Labour when it was in opposition.

There had been public outcry at the level of profit made by Camelot but it has recently fallen due to a slump in ticket sales.

One condition for potential licensees would be to replace the network of terminals from which tickets are sold in a move likely to cost around £100 million.

Camelot will also be forced to replace the tills if it successfully re-applies in a move designed to create "a level playing field" for potential bidders.

Mr Branson was speaking after the opening of the store which covers 25,000sq ft and is spread over three floors.

A state of the art building, it is the second largest Virgin Megastore in the UK beaten only by London's Oxford Street branch.

It is housed in the modernised former George Hotel which was known for its fading decor and once grand surroundings.

Before being taken over by Virgin it attracted many programme makers and became known as a film set featuring a variety of productions, including Trainspotting.

Mr Branson and Mel C's spectacular abseil was watched by a crowd of spectators who cheered as the celebrities sprayed champagne to mark the new store's debut.