Charity winnings hit by lottery website hitches

The five charities to benefit from the first draw made by the new online lottery monday last week collected little more than 5 per cent of the amount the organisers were aiming for.

The first draw raised less than £150,000 for charities, well short of Chariot's target of £2.8m a week. Charities can receive up to £600,000 each under Gambling Commission rules, but ended up getting much smaller amounts (see table).

Following an £8m advertising campaign, the game descended into chaos when the website struggled to cope with the number of players. Chariot extended it by four hours after demand soared from an expected 500 hits a second to more than 2,000.

"We are obviously a little disappointed," said Craig Freeman, managing director of Chariot. "Sales were well below expectations because of technical problems. Everyone jumped on the site at the same time."

He said that without the technical problems the game would have attracted two million entrants, generating the maximum £600,000 for each of the charities.

Three of the charities said they welcomed the revenue and one declined to comment. Alan Gosschalk, director of fundraising at Shelter, said: "Obviously we would like to have received more, but we see monday as part of a longer fundraising commitment.

"We still believe it is better to be a part of it than not. Our share of the pot will cover, for example, the annual salary of someone working on our helpline."

Chariot has disputed newspaper claims that it has awarded directors shares and bonuses worth £10m. It denied share options could be exercised immediately, regardless of performance.

"The board has agreed to a bonus scheme that kicks in only when we have achieved 75 per cent of annual target sales," said Stuart Handley, the communications director. "And share options are not redeemable before February 2007."

As the second draw approached on Monday, Chariot's share price was down to 92.5p, a fall of more than 30 per cent in the seven days since the first draw.

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