Lottery rival to go ahead

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The Independent Online
At the Lord Palmerston pub in Chelsea's Kings Road next Thursday, Bet Lynch will be back behind the bar in defiance of the Home Secretary, Jack Straw. The former Coronation Street actress Julie Goodyear, along with other celebrities and representatives of leading charities such as the Samaritans and Mencap will ignore government protests and go on with the launch of a major rival to the National Lottery.

The new Pronto! lottery will take place every evening in thousands of pubs across the country, with draws held every 15 minutes. Jackpots will run up to pounds 25,000 for a pounds 1 stake.

Mr Straw has said he will outlaw Pronto!, which he sees as a dangerous mixture of alcohol and gambling. But new legislation will take at least six months to come into effect and the organisers and their charity backers have decided to go ahead.

The charities claim to have lost 20 per cent of their revenue since the introduction of the National Lottery but would expect to receive their first cheques from Pronto! before Christmas.

Last night Britain's leading authority on gambling addiction accused the Government of hypocrisy in promising to ban the rival lottery. Dr Mark Griffiths, a senior psychology lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, said: "We already have a hard form of gambling in pubs which is fruit machines. It is as if they don't want a competitor to their own lottery. It sounds big alarm bells in my mind."

Dr Griffiths is chair of the trustees of GamCare, a charity launched last month that helps people with gambling problems.

A survey of callers to its helpline revealed fruit machines as top source of gambling problems, prompting 43 per cent of calls. Next were horse and dog racing (34) and casinos (15). The lottery accounted for less than 2.

The charities backing Pronto! - which include the Drug & Alcohol Foundation and Addiction Recovery Foundation - hope to make pounds 100m a year if the new lottery hits its target of pounds 500m. Companies supporting Pronto! have already invested pounds 30m in the game, which be will run from a giant computer in Slough.