It is all too easy to say âthey told you soâ about the troubles of AIM-listed charity lottery operator Chariot UK, which appears to have hit a financial brick wall, but its Monday game has been beset by problems ever since it launched. Chariot chairman Tim Holley, who set up the National Lottery in 1994 as Camelot chief executive, is understood to have quit, and it is hard to see how the company will convince new investors to climb aboard.
Deputy chairman Peter Jones, a former executive at advertising agency BMP DDB, who seems to have taken up the Chariot reins following Holleyâs supposed departure, will probably disagree. Jones, also chairman of the Tote, is gambling on the fact that he can persuade the City to stump up another &£3m to fund working capital and steer the company in the right direction. But shareholders have watched their investment plunge in value by more than 90%, and Jones has already admitted an end to Chariotâs trading is not out of the question.
If indeed Chariot was, and continues to be, committed to its claim of giving more money to good causes than dominant lottery player Camelot, then it might feel it should be spared some of the schadenfreude that will doubtlessly be dished out by sniggering rivals and onlookers.
Yet Holley and two of his fellow directors have reportedly received hefty payouts, which is bound to leave a sour taste in the mouths of investors and third-sector bosses.
Launched amid a fanfare exactly a month ago, Monday was trumpeted as a âfairerâ game. But it hit problems on its first day, with punters shut out of its website. It was unable to cope with demand, and the first draw was delayed by four hours. Sadly, this initial oversubscription did not herald the sustained 5 million weekly ticket sales that Chariot needed to support its initial business plan. Mondayâs online problems show the game has suffered from the lack of a high-street retail presence akin to that enjoyed by the National Lottery.
Despite its charity boast and the promise of giving players a better chance of winning, smaller top prizes â capped at &£200,000 owing to its status as a charitable lottery operator â obviously have not appealed to enough players. Monday has also been hampered by a confusing â and reputedly âexpensiveâ â launch marketing campaign, which probably helped it burn almost all of its &£15m set-up funds, &£10m of which came from Chariotâs February flotation.
A rather downbeat television execution unveiling Monday featured a dilapidated fairground and the strapline âFriend to the Unluckyâ. For a good cause maybe, but hardly the positive connotations likely to drive droves of keen lottery players to the Monday website on a regular basis.
Roy Fisher, chief executive of rival group InterLotto UK, pro-claimed Chariot would have to âpromote the hellâ out of its product to stand a chance of hitting its targets (MW April 27). But as the widely criticised campaign has unfortunately proved, getting a new brandâs marketing pitch spot on from its launch can be more important than merely boosting visibility.
Ian McCawley, Deputy editor