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Camelot seeks judicial review of Desmond's Health Lottery licences

Camelot put its money where its mouth is yesterday as the National Lottery operator carried through with its threat to take the Gambling Commission to court.

It plans to seek seek a judicial review next week into the Gambling Commission's "continuing failure" to shut down its upstart competitor, the Health Lottery, set up five months ago by the Daily Express proprietor Richard Desmond.

In strongly worded comments, Camelot's chief executive, Dianne Thompson, described as "absurd" the commission's failure to have revoked or suspended the Health Lottery's licences. She said the commission's inaction amounted to a "fundamental error" which could allow a slew of competitors to enter the market, potentially depriving British "good causes" of about £500m a year.

Ms Thompson is angry that Mr Desmond's Northern and Shell vehicle has avoided being regulated as a national lottery by setting up a regional network of 51 society lotteries operating under a single brand. This means it donates just 20p in the pound to charities – compared with Camelot's 28p – and avoids paying the 12p duty per ticket that the National Lottery gives to the Exchequer.

Ms Thompson said: "We say the Health Lottery is a national lottery. Its 51 societies are advertised nationally, branded nationally, tickets are sold nationally and it is televised nationally."

A spokesman for the Gambling Commission had no further comment yesterday. Martin Hall, the chief executive of the Health Lottery, said: "The Gambling Commission has given a very robust response to Camelot's arguments. We agree with the Gambling Commission that they are devoid of merit."

Lottery numbers

40%: Percentage of revenue the National Lottery has to give to good causes and the Exchequer

20%: Percentage of revenue that a regional lottery like the Health Lottery has to give to charities