In Camelot, they make magic The founder

After four months, the nation is hooked on the National Lottery. Good news all round - but the best news is for those running the show.
Click to follow
The Independent Online
The National Lottery can be said to have begun its life in a top floor flat in Floral Street, Covent Garden, a stone's throw from the Royal Opera House.

It was there in 1987 that the classical music conductor Denis Vaughan was visited by Sir Klaus Moser, then chairman of the Royal Opera House, to ask his advice on how the ROH could raise money for redevelopment.

Mr Vaughan, an Australian, said the best way was a national lottery. After all, that was what built the Sydney Opera House. And Mr Vaughan, more than Sir Klaus, became seized with the idea. He lobbied Margaret Thatcher, and knowing that she listened to the Adam Smith Institute on economic matters, he lobbied it, too. He became a constant visitor to the Home Office and Treasury, and brought the organisers of foreign lotteries to his London flat to brief him.

"I got used to stonewalling," Mr Vaughan, 68, recalls. "The Home Office told me there would never be a national lottery, right up until a few days before the White Paper."

By 1990 he had formed the Lottery Promotion Company with key members of the establishment, including Lord Birkett, the Earl of Harewood and the former arts minister Sir Richard Luce. More lobbying followed, as did a notable setback when the pools companies established the Sport and Arts Foundation, which effectively postponed the lottery for a year.

But when the lottery started it bore many of the features that were first discussed in Mr Vaughan's flat. Indeed, some of the Camelot consortium, which he now thinks is taking too much profit, came to his flat for advice.

Mr Vaughan's flat is now dominated by copies of Hansard, Early Day Motions by MPs and facts and figures about the lottery and possible abuses, which he circulates to MPs and journalists on a regular basis.

"My dream has come true to an extent," he said yesterday, "but it's only the beginning. If it's left as it is, it will dwindle."

Mr Vaughan sees several betrayals of his original ideals. "Already the money the Treasury is getting in tax, at £128m, is more than double the amount it has given to the sports council. The net proceeds of the lottery are not as great as possible, which by law they have to be, because the profits that the Office of the National Lottery has allowed them are too great.

"ICL is taking £100m profit for servicing 35,000 computers for seven years. Three other companies bid to do it for £30m. But as competition was only allowed between consortia and not between the companies that made them up, £65m is wasted.

"I'm even unhappy with the BBC National Lottery programme. The lottery is there to improve quality of life, but the BBC hasn't had any real examples. It even had Sir Georg Solti conducting an out of tune band."

And Mr Vaughan went off to start his day's telephone calls to everyone from Alan Yentob, controller of BBC1, to the Department of National Heritage and the Treasury, to ensure his baby grows up the way he planned.

David Lister