Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is backing Virgin's bid to become the next UK National Lottery operator.
Gates said on Sunday that the software giant will provide the technology to sell lottery tickets in shops, over the Internet, and through interactive television and mobile phones if Virgin's bid is successful.
Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin, has said that he would make the lottery a non-profit organisation, adding that the technology will lead to more money for good causes and more millionaires.
Gates said that a priority will be to use cutting-edge technology to widen the lottery's appeal.
"You need to ask whether there's an approach which can cost a lot less money and be a richer experience for the people who want to use it," said Gates in a joint television interview with Branson yesterday.
Gates said that he has no problems with promoting gambling. "If people are going to gamble, shouldn't you make sure the money generated goes to good causes?" he said.
The Virgin bid faces stiff competition from current lottery operator Camelot - a consortium which has the support of the Post Office.
Camelot's licence expires in September 2001. Bids for the new licence, which will run for seven years, have to be registered with the National Lottery Commission before the end of this month. The winner is expected to be announced in June.
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