View from City Road: Branson loses out to the small print

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The Independent Online
Richard Branson made a big mistake in his application for the national lottery. He underestimated just how legalistically petty-minded a regulator could be.

He thought he was on to a winner in offering to give all the operating profits from his lottery bid to good causes. After all, the Government kept banging on about how the creation of a monopolistic national lottery was justified by the fact that it would maximise the amount to be generated for the poor, needy and deserving.

Alas, he should have read the fine print. As an accountant who could easily have had a fine career as an actuary - or even a Chancery barrister - Peter Davis most certainly did.

The director of Oflot, the lottery regulator, was charged with maximising the amount raised for the National Lottery Distribution Fund. As far as he was concerned that was all that mattered. If Branson's consortium wanted to give its remaining profits - pounds 600m it estimated - to the small charities everyone expects to suffer because of competition from the National Lottery, that was of no interest to him.