Camelot tries to win over regulator with new assurances

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The Independent Online

Camelot, the National Lottery operator, has proposed a series of remedies to persuade the regulator to let it provide new commercial services through its network of terminals in retail outlets.

Having reviewed these assurances, the National Lottery Commission (NLC) has agreed to extend its consultation period from 3 September to 17 September. Last month, the regulator provisionally rejected Camelot's proposals for additional services, such as mobile phone top-ups and bill payments, on the grounds they would breach European Union and competition laws.

But Camelot, which has a 10-year licence to run the lottery until 2019, yesterday provided assurances on transparency and other commitments to prevent any distorting of competition. A Camelot spokeswoman said: "We are pleased that the NLC has consulted on our remedies and we remain confident that the NLC's approval of our proposals would not breach either European Union or competition law."

Despite this view, Camelot said it would be "happy" to separate accounts for the new business and make its costs and revenues transparent to the authorities. Camelot, which has a network of over 28,500 retailers, also said it would comply with any instructions provided by the NLC, such as installing a competition law compliance officer. The lottery operator also cited the revenues the additonal services would generate for good causes. But the NLC last month said the annual amount of more than £5m for good causes was "relatively small", compared with the £1.6bn delivered by the National Lottery.

PayPoint, the payment provider, said: "Camelot's so-called 'remedies' would be hugely expensive for the NLC to administer and ultimately unworkable. They would do nothing to prevent Camelot exploiting its National Lottery monopoly, distorting competition in bill payments and mobile top-ups, and damaging the interests of consumers, retailers and other businesses."