Retailers are to be placed at the heart of deliberations over the next lottery licence, the regulator has promised.
They could also be expected to play an extended role in future as terminals are thrown open to other uses such as handling utility bill payments and mobile phone top-ups in a bid to raise more funds for good causes.
The race for the next licence, which will be granted from the start of 2009 for a 10-year term instead of the previous
seven, got under way this week as the National Lottery Commission published its Statement of Main Principles for bidders to follow.
In it, the regulator said it would “permit the use of the lottery infrastructure for other purposes” such as the payment of utility bills. However, it also said it expected bidders to “display an innovative approach to the use of alternative distribution channels, including the use of new technology”.
But, reassuring retailers that they were still central to the National Lottery’s plans, commission chief executive Mark Harris said: “We will be very happy to hear from retailers. It will be very important for us to get retailers’ views and we will be holding focus groups. As best we can, we will be making sure their voice is heard and that their needs are considered.”
On the subject of retailer margins, Harris admitted there were no specific requirements laid out in the Statement of Main Principles. However, he added: “Although we do not make any reference to margins, that is something we will look at in greater detail later. Retailer margins are ultimately for the bidder to propose, but we would look carefully at each bidder’s retail strategy and be clear that they were using margin, among other tools, to ensure that the full range of retailers are motivated to get lottery sales.”
Rupert Lowery, MD of utility payment network Payzone, which has almost 25,000 terminals nationwide, said it viewed the possible roll-out of multi-function lottery terminals as “both a threat and an opportunity” for its business.
Rival PayPoint declined to comment.
Meanwhile, current lottery operator Camelot is busy rolling out its new high-speed Fast Pay terminals, already in Tesco, to independent retailers.
Simon Mowbray