Second lottery draw to be made midweek

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The Independent Online
A second National Lottery draw to take place on Wednesday nights will start next year, the lottery regulator will announce today.

Oflot is understood to have given the go-ahead to proposals submitted by Camelot several months ago for the mid-week draw, which will take place at the same time as the Saturday one, around 8pm.

A second draw is expected to increase total lottery spend by around one- fifth, with an extra 6 million people choosing to play. At present 30million people have a flutter on the lottery each week.

The move will be welcomed by the BBC, which has the right to screen both draws until November next year. While attracting criticism for its tackiness, the National Lottery Live on BBC1 pulls in between 9 and 12 million viewers a week.

Camelot said yesterday that it had outlined plans to introduce the mid- week draw in its original bid document, following the model forged by other lotteries around the world.

The move is a way of propping up interest in the game, which has tailed off since its launch in November 1994. About 14.5 million people are expected to play on Wednesdays and 21.5 million on Saturdays.

Camelot's projections suggest that the change would have the effect of decreasing the jackpot for the Saturday game from about pounds 10m to pounds 8m, while the mid-week draw's top prize would be about pounds 5m.

David Rigg, Camelot's spokesman, said it would be "extremely unlikely" that a third draw would be launched. "The majority of lotteries around the world work on the two-draw system. Although some do have a third, I think it would be inappropriate here," he said.

While the public is likely to be generally in favour of the development, the move will offend church leaders, who warned a year ago that the lottery exploited vulnerable people and undermined the public good.

In February, representatives from the Council of Churches of Britain and Ireland met with Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, to reinforce their message that the lottery was bad for the nation's health. Yesterday the Rev Bill Wallace, convener of the Church of Scotland's Board of Responsibility, said Mrs Bottomley's decision to allow a second draw "flew in the face of the churches in Britain". Describing the lottery as an "opiate for the despairing", he warned: "It is an exploitation of the poor. There is this incessant statement that `it could be you' when there is almost no chance it could be a particular individual."

The introduction of a mid-week draw will also be viewed with dismay by the gaming industry, which has been badly hit by the weekend draw with takings substantially down in some cases.