The protracted contest for the rights to the National Lottery franchise will finally come to an end next week. The Lottery Commission has confirmed that's when it will announce whether Camelot or The People's Lottery has won the franchise. And commentators are confident the industry will get a firm decision this time ­ rather than another fudge. A delegation comprising the Association of Convenience Stores, Scottish Grocers' Federation and the Newsagents' Federation met the Commission in the past week. Eddie Thompson, representing the SGF, said they were told the new service would go live early in 2002 ­ to give sufficient time for the handover. The Commission confirmed it would extend Camelot's licence to provide enough time for the handover. It also confirmed retailers' commission would stay the same, and the existing network would stay in place. Significantly, said Thompson, it was clear the Commission recognised the vital role independent retailers played in the success of the Lottery. "The meeting was very friendly and that augers well for the future links between the Commission and the independent trade." He said the Commission was keen to talk to the trade bodies about the implications for retailers of issues such as 24 hour trading, online sales and underage purchases. Thompson added: "The Commission recognises that independent retailers are the practical link with the Lottery players." And he said: "We will be looking for an early meeting with whoever wins the bid." {{NEWS }}