Camelot gambles on the pounds 100,000 scratchcard

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The Independent Online
The National Lottery operator, Camelot, which last week won permission for a second weekly draw, is now considering doubling the scratchcard jackpot to pounds 100,000.

The increase is seen as another way of boosting public interest and bolstering revenues, which would otherwise be expected to decline. Operators of lotteries around the world have found that the longer they are played, the more innovation is necessary to keep people playing.

Revenue from the Instants scratchcards has already fallen sharply, from a weekly peak of pounds 44m to pounds 17m. The jackpot - at present pounds 50,000 - may go to pounds 75,000 in the first instance, but the full pounds 100,000 figure is under consideration. Camelot may also improve the odds on winning with the cards.

Another step to bring in more gamblers which the company is canvassing is the introduction of a new game called Keno, a form of automatic lottery which would be played in clubs and pubs.

As for the main National Lottery, although Camelot does not foresee any further application to increase the number of weekly draws beyond two, other changes may be in prospect.

The lottery regulator last week also gave Camelot new powers to boost the size of the jackpot when roll-overs fail to occur.

Under the old regulations these "superdraws" enabled Camelot to guarantee a jackpot of pounds 10m or add pounds 4m to the top prize. Now Camelot will be able to guarantee a pounds 20m jackpot or add pounds 10m.

Since the size of the jackpot has proved to be a factor in the number of tickets sold, big superdraws could become an important means of propping up Camelot's income.

Keno could be another. Camelot is considering making an application to run the game, which has proved popular in the Far East and parts of the USA. This typically involves draws - sometimes every 15 minutes - on closed-circuit television in pubs, clubs and other social settings.

Whether such ideas could win approval if a Labour government is elected next year is not known. The Opposition has dropped its insistence that the lottery should be non-profit-making, but it would probably still seek to cap Camelot's earnings.

The firm is heartened that earlier criticism of the company's pounds 1m-a-week profit levels appears to have subsided.

The decision to permit twice weekly lottery draws was seen as a victory for Downing Street over Virginia Bottomley's Department of National Heritage, which had reservations.

Leading article, page 20

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