'Everyone's gone ticket crazy'

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The Independent Online

Chauffeurs, secretaries and stockbrokers queued beside ticket inspectors and company directors in record numbers yesterday at Liverpool Street railway station's lottery kiosk, the busiest in Britain, to share the chance of scooping the pounds 40m lottery jackpot.

The line of hopeful gamblers snaking into the main concourse never shrank. The largest purchase was pounds 1,000 for a syndicate of City office workers. "The whole thing has gone completely mental in the last few days. Sales are more than double the usual," said a spokeswoman for UK CL Retail, which runs the kiosk.

According to Tony Moss, the kiosk manager, regular players were spending an average pounds 5-pounds 7 on tickets compared to pounds 2 in a normal week. "You can see there are a lot of new people playing by the way they fill out the slips, because there's an art to it," he said.

A number of pinstriped bankers and city directors were also playing the lottery this week, although most proved reluctant to admit it. "I've bought a ticket, but I don't wish to tell you my name," said one head of a management consultancy. "He's the director," hissed his assistant as they departed.

The players were divided over whether the record prize was too high. Robert Harman, 52, a chauffeur in a syndicate of 10, said: "I suppose it should be split, but if someone came up to me with pounds 40m I wouldn't complain."

The queues were no less impressive at the other end of Britain, in the Shetland Isles. They began before dawn at Conochies on the High Street, with customers unperturbed by the the wind, rain and darkness. Tom Worthington, the manager, said sales were up more than 50 per cent and regular customers, including fishermen, oil workers and sheep farmers, were doubling their normal spend on tickets from pounds 2 to pounds 4.

The highest prize paid out on a ticket so far at Conochies is pounds 97,000, and Mr Worthington said the shop was ready to provide a jackpot winner, although he said it would be impossible for anyone to keep it a secret on the island.

The frenzy for tickets was intensified because the shop was closed until Tuesday because of the snow. "It's been non-stop,"Mr Worthington said.

"The bottom line is, irrespective of what they say, everyone wants to win the big prize. We're not interested in the morality of it. There's a big pot and everyone wants it."