The phrase ’balls-up’ might have been invented to describe the
latest fiasco to hit Camelot, operators of the National Lottery. The
wrong set of balls were loaded into a lottery machine during the debut
of its new scratchcard TV show, making a second draw necessary. Camelot
said it would honour the numbers selected from both draws and would meet
the extra hundreds of thousands of pounds in payout from its own
The TV Dreams scratchcard game was developed in a bid to revive falling
scratchcard sales and simultaneously breathe new life into the National
Lottery’s live Saturday night TV show. Condemned in advance as a blatant
50-minute commercial which breached BBC regulations and encouraged
gambling, the National Lottery Big Ticket’s premiere was launched amid
endemic hype and controversy.
Hosted by Anthea Turner and comedian Patrick Kielty, it was initially
deemed a great success by those taking part. But the laughs and
post-show euphoria were short-lived. After the programme ended, an
embarrassing error was found to have been made. Balls numbered 21 to 40
had been used instead of the full set of numbers from 21 to 50 when
loading the machine for drawing the third number.
Camelot’s response was quick and text-book. A repeat draw took place
under the eyes of auditors from Oflot and Price Waterhouse - the fact
that they had been supposedly supervising the original selection went
largely unremarked. The BBC announced the mistake and the results of the
new draw the same evening.
Camelot apologised, accepted responsibility for this ’human error’ and
agreed to bear the full cost of both draws. The punters wouldn’t
The charities wouldn’t suffer. It seemed that even the human, new
drawmaster and former Camelot press officer Steve Webb, wouldn’t suffer.
Variously reported as ’gutted’, ’inconsolable’ and ’heartbroken’ at the
shattering of his ’TV dream’, he would keep his job. They weren’t
apportioning blame, said a Camelot spokeswoman, even though ’Steve
ultimately carries the can’. Just as well - can you imagine the outcry
if Goliath Camelot had put the boot into the hapless Steve.
Unfortunately this whole episode demonstrates that a company needs more
than text-book responses by the press office to save or restore its
Operational sloppiness has left Camelot looking foolish and incompetent
just when it needs to be beyond reproach, especially in the wake of the
G-Tech crisis. A costly balls-up indeed.