Bidders, including the current operator Camelot, will then have until December to prepare their bids, with the licence expected to be awarded in late June 2007. Following a transition period, the third licence will begin for a period of 10 years on February 1, 2009.
NLC project board chairman Robert Foster believes the battle for the third licence is vital for the progression of the lottery and that retailers will benefit from the decision.
He told Convenience Store: "There are quite a number of companies with the capability to run the lottery but, with it being one of the largest in the world with 26,000 terminals, it has to be very capable with great experience in a number of areas.
"The difference this time round is that the licence will be awarded for 10 years instead of seven, and new technology including terminals and background systems will have to be introduced from day one. There should be smaller, more efficient terminals and new games with more complex software. The transition to this new technology has to be seamless."
Foster outlined that the successful bidder would have to demonstrate it had the ability to train retailers to use the new terminals and said: "The big changes for retailers will be introduction of state-of-the- art terminals that they will be trained on. They must be 'plug and play' and reliable. The bidder must also develop innovative new games and there could be ancillary services added to machines such as telephone top-ups and bill payments. Provided they enhance the service, the benefits could be a slightly cheaper system resulting in more money for good causes."