A pounds 10 pay-out? Don't bet on it

ANOTHER VIEW
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The Independent Online
In a world of increasing uncertainty, over the past 15 months a new certainty has been with us: if you pick three of the six numbers on the National Lottery, you win pounds 10. This was promised by Camelot at its launch, but from 17 March it will disappear and punters will be left on a Saturday night not knowing whether they have won pounds 10 or 10p.

First, I should make it clear that we at William Hill are not opposed to the National Lottery. Throughout the country, good causes have received welcome assistance and practically every household now waits in anticipation that their lives will be changed for ever by the weekly result.

However, we consider the public has been poorly served by the cavalier way in which Camelot has announced the ending of the pounds 10 guarantee. After all, they are the lottery experts and have been able to draw on the experience of decades of lotteries throughout the world in developing their proposals. We believe we have a right to know why Camelot was happy to launch the game with a pounds 10 pay-out and now, a year later, wants to change the rules. We are aware of no new factor that it should have been aware of when it first proposed the prize structure to Oflot.

The only reason given for this change in the rules is a need to protect Camelot's profits. To achieve this, the organisers appear to have uncrossed their fingers and stuck them up at the British public. Their action is an abuse of their monopoly position and would not be considered in a normal competitive environment.

Within bookmaking, for example, we offer a Lucky Choice bet involving selecting numbers on the Irish lottery. Regardless of the number of winners, we guarantee a minimum pounds 422 for picking three numbers from the first six drawn. This amount is paid out regardless of the number of winners. Equally, if all our customers back the Grand National winner, all will be paid regardless of the consequences to our profits.

The vast majority of players have taken to the National Lottery knowing that their chances of winning the jackpot are millions to one. They ask for no guarantee that they are going to win something. They know it is a gamble and you can win or lose.

Camelot, which thrives on our willingness to gamble, apparently expects to enjoy the benefits without risks. This is not good enough. Yes, we should protect moneys for good causes and taxation; but the operator should have no right to guarantee its profits.

In bookmaking, we can win or lose on any event. We accept that risk. So should Camelot. Surely, with theirprofits, they can afford to take the occasional risk.

The writer is media relations manager of the bookmakers William Hill.

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