Retailers left in the dark' with fears escalating of equipment shambles Gillian Law, John Wood Fears are rising that there will be meltdown in the National Lottery network next year, as whoever wins the franchise will not be able to install their equipment in stores by the October 2001 deadline. In order to prevent Camelot from having an advantage over other bidders, the Lottery Commission ruled that the winner of the franchise would have to use all-new equipment. If the current levels of national coverage are maintained, this would require the installation of 27,000 terminals. The terminals would have to be manufactured, staff would need to be recruited to install them, decisions on where to site them would need to be made, and once they were installed shop staff have to be trained to operate them. If Richard Branson's People's Lottery manages to resolve its differences with the National Lottery Commission within the next month, it has a year to put complex technology in place. Worse, if it doesn't, the whole issue of who runs the lottery will be sent back to the drawing board. "It is sad and unacceptable that retailers remain unsure of their role," said Trevor Dixon, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores. Instead of being able to work with the next lottery provider, he added, retailers have been left in the dark. "It's worth remembering that it is neighbourhood retailers who promote the game, who are the face of the National Lottery to their customers," said Dixon. "This is a shambles that hurts retailers." No-one from the People's Lottery was available to comment on the technology to be used, provided by US lottery operator AWI. C-store owner Eddie Thompson, who represented the Scottish Grocer's Federation in meetings with the People's Lottery, said it had already confirmed that independents would continue to play the major role in the network, and that it would adhere to the retailers 5% commission. However, at a press conference, People's Lottery chief executive Simon Burridge indicated this may drop to 4.9% as internet gambling grows. {{NEWS }}