Politics: Rival lottery to fight ban in Europe

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Organisers of a new lottery which is expected to make up to pounds 100m a year for charity will challenge the Government in Europe if it goes ahead with plans to ban it.

Pronto! is to be launched later this month by a private company, Inter Lotto, with the backing of 25 British charities. The lottery will take place in pubs and clubs and be drawn every few minutes.

But last week the Government angered the charities by indicating that it is likely to seek a change in the law to prohibit such rapid draw lotteries.

An Inter Lotto spokesman said yesterday that it had taken advice on challenging any ban under European monopoly legislation. "We would probably go to Europe because the Government is not a disinterested party if we go to court here."

Adrian Sanders, MP for Torbay and vice-chair of the all-party group on charities, will table an early day motion in the Commons today supporting the new game.

He said it was a way of redressing the 20 per cent decline in charitable giving since the National Lottery was launched.

"My view is that the Lottery has effectively taken power away from charities. The charities are having to tweak what they do to access funds through the National Lottery Charities Board [which allocates Lottery money]."

Many of the charities behind Pronto! have written to the Prime Minister to object to any moves to outlaw the new lottery.

David Scott-Ralphs of Mencap said: "This could represent a vital new source of income for Mencap when it is getting ever more difficult to raise voluntary funds for our services. Is the Government also going to ban fruit machines, which give nothing to charity?"

Rosie Barnes, the former MP now chief executive of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, said it had received no money from the National Lottery and it would be "grossly unfair" if it was prevented from benefiting from another lottery.

"The Government receives around pounds 1 billion each year in tax from the National Lottery, while many in the charity sector have lost out. We are certainly not in favour of a monopoly for Camelot."

A Home Office spokesman said a Government announcement would be made this week. The Government had been concerned for some time by the implications, such as a possible increase in gambling, of frequent draw lotteries, the spokesman added.