Crystal Amber slams Camelot

CRYSTAL AMBER, an investor in retail outfit PayPoint, launched a stinging attack on National Lottery operator Camelot yesterday over its plans to offer more services through its in-shop gambling terminals.

Camelot wants to let customers pay utility and council tax bills through its lottery machines, as well as top up mobile phones with swipe cards. The prospect of the move has weighed heavily on PayPoint’s share price as it would put the two groups in head-to-head competition. PayPoint’s paper has dropped 34 per cent since the start of the year to 300p.

Crystal Amber, which owns five per cent of PayPoint, said yesterday Camelot’s incursion into its territory represented a “serious competitive threat”. The hedge fund released research it had commissioned suggesting 60 per cent of National Lottery players would not buy tickets if the wider range of services on offer resulted in queues at Camelot’s terminals. This would reduce the flow of lottery cash to charities, Crystal Amber’s Richard Bernstein argued.

A spokesperson for Camelot said the wider range of functions would not result in queues. She added: “We are offering more choice to consumers and raising more money for good causes through our terminals.”

The National Lottery Commission, which regulates Camelot, is due to announce by the end of June whether it will allow Camelot to branch out.