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GTECH Head Quits British Lottery

February 3, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ Guy Snowden, chairman of U.S. lottery operator GTECH Corp., is out of the British numbers game after a jury found he tried to bribe tycoon Richard Branson.

Branson says GTECH should be removed as well, along with the director general of the lottery, Peter Davis, who acknowledged that he approved a GTECH-organized consortium to run the lottery even though he had questions about GTECH.

Britain’s Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, summoned Davis to a meeting Tuesday afternoon, ``to report on the steps he is taking in the wake of yesterday’s judgment.″ A spokeswoman for Smith would not elaborate.

Davis declined comment to a throng of journalists as he arrived to see Smith.

``How can you let a company like that be involved in the British lottery?″ a triumphant Branson asked Monday at the end of the bitter three-week libel trial.

Branson said Snowden tried over lunch on Sept. 24, 1993, to pay him off to abandon a bid to run Britain’s numbers game on a nonprofit basis for charity. The charitable bid threatened GTECH’s plans to make millions on the deal, Branson testified.

Branson quoted Snowden as saying: ``I don’t know how to phrase this, Richard. There is always a bottom line. Let me get to the point. In what way can we help you, Richard?″

Snowden then emphasized that he wanted to help Branson ``personally″ and that ``everybody needs something,″ Branson testified.

The bribery attempt was not illegal, Branson agreed, but he called it a sleazy business tactic that makes Snowden unfit for a role in Britain’s National Lottery. Branson sued for defamation after Snowden and GTECH challenged his version of the lunch meeting, which Branson gave in a BBC television interview two years after the fact.

Jurors sided with Branson in less than 2 1/2 hours of deliberations.

They issued awards that came to 120,000 pounds ($192,000) total, which Branson said he would give to charity.

Snowden and GTECH were also ordered to pay Branson’s legal bill _ an estimated $1.6 million.

It was a stunning defeat for Snowden, the American executive who built GTECH into the top global lottery operator, only to be tossed out of Britain’s games _ the world’s biggest.

Snowden said he found it ``very difficult to accept the jury’s verdict″ but that he would step down immediately as a director of Camelot, the consortium GTECH set up to run the British lottery, and from GTECH UK Ltd., GTECH’s British subsidiary.

``That’s the right thing to do,″ Snowden told reporters outside the High Court on Monday. Snowden said he did not want his legal loss to hinder the operations of the lottery, which he was proud of building.

Branson told reporters that GTECH, too, should play no role in Britain’s lottery _ but lottery regulators and Camelot dismissed this as out of the question late Monday.

They said the libel case was a personal fight between Branson and Snowden, although GTECH was also a defendant on the losing side.

Branson said the lottery regulation office should immediately replace its director general, Davis. Davis acknowledged during the trial that he gave Camelot the lottery contract even though he had reservations about GTECH because of allegations about the company’s business practices in obtaining U.S. lottery contracts.

Davis had no intention of resigning but was instead working to ensure that Snowden does end all involvement with the British lottery, said lottery office spokeswoman Janet Hare.

Davis’ office did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday after he was ordered to meet with the secretary.

GTECH, based in West Greenwich, R.I., has interests in 29 U.S. lotteries as well as the lotteries in Britain and 48 other countries. Although some people with past ties to GTECH have faced charges of bribery or kickbacks in the United States, GTECH had never been indicted _ much less convicted _ of anything.

Branson is Britain’s best-known entrepreneur, running airlines, trains and movie houses under his Virgin brand name.

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