1993: Lottery is created by the National Lottery Act and safeguarded by Oflot and the director general.

Branson's the People's Lottery loses out when the first seven-year franchise is awarded to Camelot.

1994: The National Lottery is launched.

1997: Labour's manifesto says it will seek an “efficient, not-for-profit operator”.

“Fat cat” row blows up over Camelot's huge bonuses to its executives and profits for shareholders.

1998: Branson claims that GTech boss Guy Snowden offered him a bribe not to bid for the first licence. Both sue one another. Branson wins the High Court libel case against Snowden, who resigns from GTech.

1999: The five-strong Lottery Commission becomes effective.

January 2000: The commission says that there are seven possible bidders for the licence, including Camelot, Trigger 7 Lotto and the People's Lottery, which becomes the only challenger.

February 2000: Both Camelot and the People's Lottery submit detailed applications.

March 2000: Camelot pledges to raise an extra £5bn for good causes if its bid is successful, matching the £15bn pledged by the People's Lottery. Branson questions how Camelot will raise the funds.

It emerges that Camelot has been planning rival nationwide lotteries should Branson's bid win.

Branson issues a writ against journalist Tom Bower over an article in the Evening Standard, which accused Branson of seeking to use the Lottery to promote the Virgin brand.

May 2000: The commission discovers that GTech failed to notify Camelot or the former director general of a fault in the software used in the National Lottery terminals.

June 2000: The commission asks both to improve their bids and delays its decision until August.

July 2000: The commission writes to Camelot and GTech on 28 July. Camelot and GTech think the letter removes any problem of fitness and propriety in relation to the application.

August 2000: The commission makes a shock announcement: it rebuffs both bidders again, but says that concerns over the financial viability of Branson's bid can be ironed out quickly in fresh talks. It then rejects Camelot's bid because of its partnership with GTech, thus ending the competitive process.

Camelot decides to pursue a judicial review of the commission's decision.

Stories emerge that Branson's technology partner Automated Wagering International (AWI) has suffered problems in the US.

September 2000: Camelot says it will buy GTech's UK company in a £100m deal.

Mr Justice Richards finds in Camelot's favour. He says there is “no escaping the conclusion that the procedure decided on by the commission was conspicuously unfair to Camelot”. Camelot is back in the race. It is given a month to submit a revised bid and negotiate exclusively with the commission.

October 2000: Dame Helena Shovelton resigns from the commission due to media pressure. Lord Burns replaces Shovelton as commission chairman.

Branson accuses Camelot of a dirty tricks campaign of spin and whisper to derail the bidding process and discredit Shovelton. Camelot denies the allegation.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer beats City competition to advise the National Lottery Commission after it dumped former Treasury solicitor advisers (The Lawyer, 9 October 2000).

Camelot loses its battle to remove the four commissioners held partly responsible for the fiasco.

November 2000: The commission has to look at the two bids afresh and without regard to any earlier provisional conclusions.

19 December 2000: Lawyers for Camelot and the People's Lottery prepare to launch immediate legal challenges to the commission's decision should it go against them.

The commission awards the seven-year franchise to Camelot by four votes to one. Commission member Hilary Blume immediately tenders her resignation, saying she cannot support the decision.

Branson criticises Lord Burns, saying he changed the minds of the other commissioners who orginally voted for the People's Lottery, and attacks the Government for breaking its promise to introduce a non-profit-making lottery.

8 January 2001: The People's Lottery says it may launch a non-profit rival to the National Lottery.

9 January 2001: Branson meets his lawyers at Harbottle & Lewis before deciding whether to challenge the commission's decision through the courts.

10 January 2001: Branson says he will not launch a legal challenge to the award of the National Lottery licence to Camelot, but calls for an urgent review of the Lottery selection process. He complains of being misled by the commission. He also says that he will seek to recover some of his bid's £30m costs from the regulator. Branson makes it known that he will not contest another lottery bid.

Downing Street confirms that there will be a review of the lottery selection process.