A British company unveiled plans for the "biggest lottery on Earth" that would pay out a tax-free $487 million jackpot to one lucky winner each year and make up to 100 others millionaires each month.
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The scheme is just one idea the U.K.-based Camelot Group presented in a proposal it filed Friday as part of its bid to retain management of Britain's lucrative lottery license. At least 20 countries need to participate in the drawing to get enough prize money together, Camelot CEO Dianne Thompson said. At least 48 countries have reportedly already expressed interest.
Camelot, which has managed the country's lottery since 1993, spent $39 million crafting the 18,447-page application asking the government to renew its contract over rival bidder Sugal & Damani, which manages India's biggest drawing. The winning company will manage the lotto for 10 years beginning in 2009 — and will rake in about $500 million in profit each year even if gaming levels stay the same. Almost 70 percent of Britons already play the lotto each week.
Gaming is big business across the pond. Britons gambled an estimated $97.5 billion in 2006 — about $9.8 billion in lotto tickets alone — government figures indicate. Americans, who live in a country with about five times the population of the U.K., spent only $84.7 billion on legal gambling in the same time period, according to the American Gaming Association.
Gambling addiction experts are concerned that the international game could fuel the rising number of problem gamblers in the U.K., which the government already expects to double to 700,000 over the next five years. But advocates say the lotto helps fund needed social programs and will raise almost $3 billion for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.
For every dollar spent on lottery tickets in Britain, 50 percent goes toward the prize, 12 percent goes to taxes and 28 percent is allocated for parliament-sanctioned "good causes." Camelot and ticket retailers split the remaining 10 percent.
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This isn't the first time Camelot has looked for lotto lovers on foreign shores. In 2004, the company launched its EuroMillions drawing, which is available to players in eight European countries. Meanwhile, a new law relaxing restrictions on advertisements for gambling on television and in print takes effect in Britain this year and is expected to raise the stakes on the country's gambling obsession.
The British National Lottery Commission has four months to review the proposals.