The Lottery Commission said yesterday that its main reason for dropping Camelot's bid to continue running the National Lottery was because of unresolved difficulties with US computer firm GTech. GTech's share price promptly slid five per cent. But what exactly was the problem? We weren't the only ones interested to know and the whole sorry story emerged this morning (we should really quote an excellent analysis in The Independent here).
GTech makes the computer terminals which verify, record and send all lottery ticket details (and print out the ticket of course). It got the job when the lottery was launched in 1994 and has done very well thankyou-very-much out of the deal.
However, it quickly discovered that a software bug meant that winners of prizes below £50,000 were getting the wrong amount sent to them (give or take a couple of quid). In all, before the bug was fixed, about 80,000 people received too little and 35,000 too much. But GTech decided that it wasn't going to tell anyone about it - even us, claim Camelot - and wouldn't be contacting the people mispaid either.
That was until a GTech employee decided to blow the whistle this April, two years after the fact, and wrote to the Lottery Commission to explain all. The Commission was none too impressed. GTech got rid of its chief executive and COO, but it wasn't enough to satisfy the Commission and it was too late in the day for Camelot to dump GTech. So there you have it. The great advantage if this sort of thing happens to the other bidder, The People's Lottery, is that has on board a man who knows all about software bugs - Bill Gates.
Actually, while we're here, how about a list of dodgy GTech dealings?
- Chief exec Guy Snowden tried to bribe Richard Branson when the lottery was last put out to tender. Branson wrotes notes in Snowden's toilet immediately after the meeting and went public. Argy bargy and a libel writ later and Snowdon was out on his ear.
- The FBI opened an investigation into GTech's business practices in the US
- Then lottery regulator head Peter Davis told a government select committee that he didn't trust GTech
- A sales manager was imprisoned for paying lobbyists in the US so it would win the New Jersey state lottery.
- We're sure there are more
Oh, and we have a little bit more of a clue what the Commission meant yesterday by its concern that The People's Lottery wouldn't "protect players". Apparently there are legal problems concerning whether ticket holders would be reimbursed if the company went under. Old Richie Branson - stuck in the Caribbean because of a tornado, poor dear - said that he is confident his consortium and the Committee can come to some kind of agreement. ®