Lottery offers 14 million to one chance of jackpot: Virgin boss condemns contract's proceeds going to 'fill pockets of winning consortium's shareholders'. Gail Counsell reports

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THE CHANCES of selecting all six numbers to win the jackpot in the National Lottery will be 14 million to one against, according to Sir Ron Dearing, chairman of Camelot, the consortium which yesterday won the contract to operate the lottery.

That compared with 2,400 million to one against for a pounds 1 Premium Bond stake, while the chance of winning some sort of lottery prize were only 52 to one against.

Lottery players will buy a pounds 1 'play slip' from retail outlets including newsagents, chain stores, petrol stations and post offices. They will select six numbers from the 49 on the play slip and return it to the shopkeeper, who will insert it into an on-line terminal. That will register the numbers and issue a receipt.

The draw will be televised live on a Saturday evening, probably by the BBC. With expected audiences of about 23 million, it will probably become the top-rated programme.

Those who correctly select three or four of the six winning numbers will win about pounds 10 and pounds 50 respectively; those who pick five will win 'several thousand pounds'; while those - typically two people a week - who get all six right will share the estimated pounds 3m- pounds 5m jackpot.

The group said that, from November, 80 per cent of the population would be able to buy a ticket within a short distance of where they live or work. It plans to install about 10,000 computer terminals to get the on-line game underway, but the number of outlets will rise to more than 27,000 by December 1996. In addition there will be 12,000 outlets selling instant games.

As well as the half of its turnover which will be paid out in prizes, Camelot will pay 12 per cent of its sales to the Treasury in tax. 'Good causes' in the shape of the National Lottery Distribution Fund, which is responsible for allocating some of the money raised to the arts, charities, sports and the Millennium fund, will get 25 to 30 per cent.

The remainder will cover Camelot's costs and profits. Peter Davis, director-general of the National Lottery, made it clear that his legislative remit was to consider only the maximisation of profits for the National Lottery Distribution Fund and not charities or good causes in general. 'The fact that any applicant might give all or part of its profits to good causes would be relevant only to the extent it could be shown to lead to greater overall revenues,' he said.

But Richard Branson, head of Virgin, said after hearing his bid to run the lottery had been unsuccessful that it was 'absolutely wrong' that the lottery should be used to fill the pockets of shareholders. He had planned to give all the lottery proceeds, estimated at pounds 10bn a year, to good causes.

Over the next seven years, Camelot is expected to contribute about pounds 9bn in total to the distribution fund.

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