Me­dia mogul eyes the prize in Na­tional Lot­tery raid

Daily Mail - - City & Finance - By Matt Oliver

BIL­LION­AIRE me­dia mogul Richard Des­mond is set to bid for the rights to run the Na­tional Lot­tery.

Through his com­pany North­ern & Shell, which owns the Ex­press and Star news­pa­pers, the 65-year- old is ex­pected to try and take the fran­chise from cur­rent op­er­a­tor Camelot.

His ef­fort fol­lows a sim­i­lar at­tempt by Vir­gin boss Sir Richard Bran­son in 2000.

A source close to North­ern & Shell yes­ter­day con­firmed Des­mond’s firm would be mak­ing a bid, adding: ‘There are var­i­ous cri­te­ria you have to ful­fil and they al­ready have.’

The group al­ready runs The Health Lot­tery, which is made up of 51 smaller lot­ter­ies rep­re­sent­ing lo­cal au­thor­ity ar­eas across Bri­tain. It has been loss­mak­ing since its launch in 2011.

Bosses have been call­ing for dereg­u­la­tion of so­ci­ety lot­ter­ies, in­clud­ing of the max­i­mum per­cent­age of sales that prize money can be worth, call­ing for the cap to be raised to 50pc from 10pc.

Martin El­lice, a joint man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at North­ern & Shell, told the Fi­nan­cial Times: ‘We’re go­ing to go for it ... We’re in the lot­tery busi­ness now.’

Des­mond, whose firm is in talks to sell its news­pa­pers to ri­val Trin­ity Mir­ror, is hop­ing he can take the larger Na­tional Lot­tery fran­chise when it comes up for re­newal in 2019.

Camelot has run the lot­tery since it was es­tab­lished by John Ma­jor’s gov­ern­ment in 1994 and holds the rights to con­tinue do­ing so un­til at least 2023.

The firm is owned by On­tario Teach­ers’ Pen­sion Plan, a ma­jor pen­sion fund in Canada. It was bought for £390m seven years ago. If Des­mond is suc­cess­ful, it would mean the lot­tery fran­chise would re­turn to Bri­tish hands.

Paul Ash­ford, North­ern & Shell’s group edi­to­rial di­rec­tor, said: ‘The Bri­tish peo­ple would not mind a Bri­tish com­pany do­ing the Bri­tish lot­tery.’

It comes af­ter Camelot warned in June that lot­tery ticket sales had fallen 8.8pc, to £6.9bn, in the year to March 31.

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