Second weekly draw set as Camelot profits slump

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The Independent Online
The first mid-week National Lottery draw will be held on 5 February 1997, Camelot said yesterday. The Wednesday jackpot is expected to settle at about pounds 4m, cannibalising the Saturday draw slightly but increasing the game's weekly income from its current pounds 69m to over pounds 80m.

News of the second weekly draw emerged as Camelot reported a sharp drop in profits for the 24 weeks to September, following a slump in demand for the Instants scratchcards which were launched just prior to the comparable period in 1995. After weekly sales of pounds 44m in their first few weeks, turnover has settled at about pounds 17m.

In contrast to the rapid fall in Instants sales, which Camelot chief executive Tim Holley said was expected and a better performance than other lotteries around the world, sales of tickets for the main weekly draw actually rose by 2 per cent during the period to pounds 1.68bn as the lottery continued to exert a strong grip on the UK's pounds 24bn a year gaming industry.

Total sales in the half-year were pounds 2.1bn, of which over pounds 1bn went in prizes, pounds 568m was distributed to good causes and pounds 270m was taken by the Government in tax. Sales in the comparable six-month period were pounds 2.51bn.

The sharp fall in sales was reflected in a fall in pre-tax profits from pounds 36.2m to pounds 31.5m at Camelot, 90 per cent of which is owned in equal proportions by Cadbury Schweppes, De La Rue, GTech and Racal. The remaining 10 per cent is held by ICL, the computer company owned by Fujitsu of Japan. The consortium of owners shared in a pounds 10m dividend.

Sir George Russell, chairman, said the lottery had been highly successful since its launch in November 1994. In its first two years, he said, a total of pounds 3.7bn had been generated for the country - pounds 2.5bn for good causes in the arts, sport, heritage, charities and the Millennium fund, and pounds 1.2bn in tax.

More than pounds 3bn has been paid out in prizes, with 533 jackpots scored out of the total 127 million winners. About two thirds of the adult population play the lottery regularly, with members of C2 social class spending marginally more per head. The game is most popular in the North-east where the average weekly spend per play is pounds 3.15 compared with pounds 2.33 in London and only pounds 2.03 in the South-west.

To counter criticisms that the Lottery encourages excessive gambling and makes excessive profits Camelot has established a charitable foundation, which it expects to put pounds 5m into this year.