GTech to keep role in lottery

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THE lottery watchdog, Oflot, ruled yesterday that the US firm GTech should be allowed to continue as a supplier to the National Lottery.

The company's fitness to remain involved was questioned after Richard Branson's High Court libel win over Guy Snowden, the company's former chairman, in February. The jury found that Mr Snowden tried to bribe Mr Branson into pulling out of the race to run the lottery, and the case resulted in the resignation of the then lottery regulator, Peter Davis. There were also allegations against GTech of impropriety or poor business practices in the United States.

John Stoker, Oflot's acting director-general, said yesterday: "I have concluded on the evidence currently available to me, that GTech is fit and proper for its role as a supplier of lottery systems and services to the National Lottery ... I am satisfied that, subject to the assurances I have been given, [Mr Snowden] is no longer involved in the UK National Lottery. I will consider further steps should those assurances be breached in any way."

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "We welcome the professional and efficient way that John Stoker has conducted his investigation. "Camelot can now build on the good job they have already been doing in running a very successful lottery. This, together with the reforms in the Lottery Bill, means the public can have full confidence that their lottery will be run and regulated efficiently and that its proceeds are going to the good causes which are their priorities."

Asked whether the acquisition of GTech's stake in Camelot by the other Camelot shareholders was a significant factor, Mr Stoker said: "I did welcome it, it did simplify matters of fitness and propriety."

Asked whether GTech was fit and proper at the time the licence was given to Camelot, he said: "The licence was let in 1994. The conclusion that GTech and Camelot were at that stage fit and proper was taken by my predecessor on the knowledge available at the time. I don't see that ... he could have reached a different conclusion."

He said the board members whom he interviewed recently were extremely responsible people. "These aren't lightweight people, they are not in any sense shady or untrustworthy, and I looked at the evidence they put to me."

The GTech chairman and chief executive officer, William Y. O'Connor, said the company was "extremely pleased" with the announcement, which he called a "turning point".

The Camelot chief executive, Tim Holley, said yesterday's decision reaffirmed the company's confidence in GTech. And he added: "The UK National Lottery could not have become the best in the world without the contribution of GTech ... I commend their performance and professionalism as suppliers of lottery systems and expertise, as well as their open, co-operative conduct throughout the recent inquiry."