‘Fairer’ lottery takes a gamble on the high street

It has been a while since anyone took a chance on challenging the dominance of the National Lottery. But next month sees the launch of a new draw pitched as a “fairer” alternative to the Camelot-run game, with more money going to charity and better odds promised for players. But, as observers point out, new entrant Monday faces an uphill struggle to position itself as a serious rival to the national game.

Set to launch on May 8, Monday is being marketed by Chariot UK, a company chaired by former Camelot chief executive Tim Holley. Run from the website www.playmonday.com, players pick six numbers between one and 49 ahead of the draw, in which six numbers are chosen. If no player matches all six the &£100,000 jackpot will go to the player with the closest numbers.

Some 70 charities – including Barnardo’s, The British Red Cross and Shelter – have signed up, and five organisations per week will benefit on a rotational basis. Tickets cost &£1, of which 30p will go to the player’s chosen charity and 55p to the prize pool. The remaining 15p will be spent on new products, additional prizes and operating costs. By comparison, the National Lottery gives 28p to good causes and puts 50p into the prize pool. It pays 12p in government duty, 5p to retailers and spends 4.5p to on operating costs, taking the last halfpenny in profit.

Monday’s marketing director Andrew Williams says Chariot’s research revealed scope for a game that offered punters a better chance of winning the jackpot, and more cash for matching three, four and five numbers. He claims that the chances of winning the jackpot are 27 times greater than those of winning the National Lottery’s first prize.

Williams hopes Monday will appeal to players attracted by the idea that more money goes to well-known charities. “If we can make a success out of this, we will raise about &£150m,” he says. “Our 70 partners are highly enthusiastic about this, and they will make four or five times as much as we will.”

Yet despite Williams’ upbeat mood, Camelot has already issued a statement challenging Monday’s claims to provide better odds of winning. A spokesman points out that its draw offers the chance to win multi-million pound jackpots three times a week, and claims that HotPicks offers better odds for matching fewer numbers: a one-in-317, 814 chance of winning &£130,000, for picking and matching five numbers, compared with a one-in-501,000 chance of winning &£100,000 with Monday. On the charity aspect, the spokesman adds: “Although we do not allocate lottery funding, we note that more than 40 of the 70 charities supported by Monday have received lottery funding totalling nearly &£80m.”

Either way, industry observers say Chariot is certainly taking a gamble with its positioning. Previous “society” lotteries, such as NHS Loto and pub-based game Pronto, struggled: the former due to lack of advertising and the latter due to government intervention. Both resulted in substantial losses for the companies involved.

Indeed, Roy Fisher, chief executive of the company behind Pronto, InterLotto UK, warns Chariot will have to “promote the hell” out of its product, particularly as it will not have the same high-street retail presence as the National Lottery. Monday, it seems, is far from a safe bet.

Barney Stokes

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