Camelot rounds on bookmakers' gamble

The National Lottery company is taking out a private prosecution to stake its claim to the gambling high ground, says Roger Pearson. Camelot has announced it will mount a private prosecution against bookmakers Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill, over a lottery-style competition called 49's which they are running through betting shops.

The move follows Camelot's failure in its application for judicial review of the Director of Public Prosecution's decision not to prosecute the three bookmakers over the scheme.

The case is being watched closely by the gaming industry, because it will examine lottery law and the rights of others to run what have become termed "lottery-style" competitions.

The 49's scheme has attracted the support of hundreds of thousands of punters throughout the UK and is said to net about £3m a week. A similar competition, Lucky choice, which earns around £2m a week, could also have been hit had the high court ruling gone in Camelot's favour.

Camelot claims that 49's is an illegal lottery. In its bid to challenge the DPP's refusal to prosecute, the company said that there was a "seriously arguable case" and that the DPP had made an error of law in deciding not to prosecute. David Pannick QC, counsel for Camelot, argued that 49's contained all the legal ingredients necessary to be classed as a lottery under the 1976 Lotteries and Amusements Act, and that as such it was "plainly unlawful".

However, in a 17-page judgment, Lord Justice Simon Brown dismissed the substantive challenge by Camelot, although he accepted that its arguments against 49's were "properly arguable".

Alan Ross, spokesman for 49's Ltd, said it welcomed the decision but added that it was not unexpected because it had taken all legal steps and advice necessary from the beginning.