PROFILE BRIAN POMEROY: The gentleman and the players

Dan Gledhill meets the Lottery regulator who nurses the greedy while tending to the needy
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The guardian of the National Lottery's conscience, if that is not a contradiction in terms, and the chairman of London's leading charity for the homeless? Surely some mistake?

By day, mild-mannered former accountant Brian Pomeroy chairs Centrepoint, the foundation that provides a lifeline for the thousands of people reduced to living on the capital's streets. By metaphorical night, he is transformed into the key member of the regulator charged with choosing the next operator of Britain's twice-weekly greedfest.

In the former guise, Pomeroy distributes crumbs of comfort to some of the nation's poorest. In the latter, he sits in tacit approval of an operation that panders to our most unashamedly greedy instincts. Let's face it, the pounds 22m pocketed by the Lottery's biggest winners thus far would go some way to housing London's entire vagrant population.

Pomeroy, a slight, unassuming figure just turned 55, bears the apparent contradiction with the ease of a man fully satisfied with the ethics of his position.

"My position might rankle if there were no protections and there was no duty for the Lottery to be run properly," he says. "But the Act that governs us is extremely tough. Once you've achieved that, you can produce these huge sums which can be used to fund voluntary-sector projects and support the arts, heritage and sports."

Nevertheless, he is conscious of the legacy of Peter Davis, the Oflot head who stepped down in the acrimonious aftermath of the last battle for the licence to run the lottery. Not that he would admit it, but many of Pomeroy's friends must have thought him several numbers short of the jackpot to have applied for one of the five commissioners' jobs that the Government advertised at the end of last year.

An economics graduate from Cambridge, Pomeroy has spent most of his professional life as a management consultant with Deloitte Consulting. In between, he has worked for the government on development projects in the Third World. It is a career he describes as "fortunate and satisfying", so why on Earth risk reputational rack and ruin by taking on the formidable anti- Lottery lobby?

"I do have a general interest in that old-fashioned term, public service," he says. "I just felt it was time to do something with a more public dimension. The Lottery was interesting because it was a regulatory task, and I am very interested in regulation."

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, who appointed him, must have drooled when he saw Pomeroy's regulatory pedigree. He was instrumental in Britain's first big utility privatisation, British Telecom, and became a vital point of reference for the former communist states of Eastern Europe as they made their transition to free-market economies. However, he is at pains to point out that he is one of five commissioners who just happens to be in the chair at the moment - a consciously collectivist approach that is more than false modesty.

"The powers of the commission haven't changed at all from Oflot," he says. "The main change is the fact that there are five of us instead of one, with the result that it is less personalised."

To an extent, the heat has already been taken off Pomeroy and his four colleagues. First time round, the fight for the Lottery licence was a long and bitter affair contested by seven credible contenders. Since then, Camelot, the consortium that prevailed, has earned widespread admiration for its running of the game. The Post Office, which had been cited as a likely rival operator, is reported to be teaming up with Camelot - which consists of Cadbury Schweppes, De La Rue, Racal and ICL-- rather than bidding individually. In addition, the Government has indicated its preference for a not-for-profit operator. It is not a coincidence that Ladbroke and Rank, quoted companies which bid for the Lottery last time, are unlikely to renew their interest. At present, Littlewoods seems to represent the only competition.

"We don't know how many bidders there may be," says Pomeroy diplomatically. "We would like as many strong bidders as we can get. People haven't made definitive statements yet; many people haven't decided what they will do."

Nor will he reveal whether Richard Branson has been in touch with him as part of the consultation process; a process that will culminate in the statement of principles, which the commission is due to announce this month. His caginess is typical of a man conscious that recent months have been trying ones for Camelot. Results announced last month revealed the first decline in profits since the consortium took on the job.

Meanwhile, the hostility of those opposed to the entire concept shows no sign of abating. Sue Fisher, an independent researcher from Plymouth University, has found that since the Lottery's inception, the incidence of problem gambling among 12 to 15-year-olds has increased by 18 per cent.

"The thing that concerns us most of all is under-age sales," Pomeroy admits. "It is illegal to sell tickets to a person under 16 but when surveys were commissioned by Oflot, they showed that 7 per cent of 14 to 15 year olds had played. I think this is a very high figure and way beyond what is acceptable.

"We are certainly very concerned that children might be addicted, but I'm not sure that we have seen evidence of that. That is not to minimise our concern, and we are unhappy enough at the mere fact that they are buying tickets."

He applauds the efforts made in this direction by Camelot. It has launched an undercover campaign to identify retailers guilty of selling scratch cards to juveniles.

Camelot's name may have been dragged through the mud by allegations of greed and bribery, but Pomeroy's charitable credentials appear to make him the ideal man to remind the nation of the Lottery's good work.

He even claims to have won over his neighbours in Hampstead. The left- leaning residents of this north London enclave, who elected Glenda Jackson to Parliament, are just the sort of paternalists likely to condemn the Lottery as a tax on the poor, the new opium of the people. If he can win over these fierce sceptics, he has every chance of convincing the rest of us that the next Lottery operator will be a worthy choice.