Lottery blamed as pools firm is forced to shed 320 jobs

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The Independent Online

Littlewoods Pools yesterday blamed the National Lottery for the closure of its Cardiff office with the loss of 320 jobs.

The company announced the redundancies with a warning that 200 more jobs will go at its Merseyside and Glasgow centres, although it is hoped these will be voluntary.

Colin Thwaite, Littlewoods managing director, said that, since the arrival of the lottery, pools' income had tumbled. Because the company is committed to maintaining the level of prize money, redundancies and costing cutting are the only option.

Despite a 5 per cent tax break from the Government in June - following backbench and Opposition pressure and a warning that the lottery could put the pools' companies out of business - Littlewoods still complained of an unequal playing field yesterday.

"We've had to fight on unequal terms," Mr Thwaite said. "And although the Government has made some concessions, they have been too little too late, with the consequences that we publicly predicted more than a year ago."

Shouts of foul play against the lottery have also come from the voluntary sector and the racing industry. They argue that the Government's concessions to Camelot, the lottery company, give it unfair advantage.

Charities have claimed their donations have fallen by a fifth - pounds 71m - since the lottery was launched, but they have failed to persuade the Government that they too should be compensated for losses in income.

An independent report by the Henley Centre recently predicted that 2,000 betting shops face closure. Bookmakers say takings dropped after the lottery's launch and the arrival of scratch cards increased losses.

Next month Littlewoods will launch its own national scratchcard in competition with Camelot following the success of a year-long pilot in two regions.