The BBC is to lose exclusive television rights to the UK National Lottery because Camelot believes its games would be better promoted on rivals such as ITV and Channel Five.
The lottery operator, which is believed to be negotiating with several commercial broadcasters, wants to overhaul television coverage in 2006 when the BBC's existing contract to show the draw comes up for renewal.
The company would now prefer an arrangement whereby the draws of its seven games are shown across different channels. It is particularly keen that televised draws are scheduled before or after ITV programmes such as the The X Factor and Pop Idol, which attract huge numbers of younger viewers.
A senior Camelot employee said that it was no longer feasible for the BBC to be the sole provider of coverage, now that the number of games had increased from the original weekly draw.
"The BBC simply cannot cover all the games even if it wanted to. It would have to set up a dedicated lottery channel," said the official.
"The current contract, which gave the BBC first refusal on games, was appropriate 10 years ago but so much has changed since. We could see major changes announced even before the current contract with the BBC comes up for renewal."
The loss of exclusive rights would be a blow for the BBC, which pays about £800,000 a year for the rights and views the game as a key weapon in its ratings battle with ITV. Some of the biggest names in television - including Ian Wright, the former footballer, Eamonn Holmes, Philip Scofield and Dale Winton - front the live draws of the Lotto, Lotto Extra and Thunderball games on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Under the terms of the deal with the BBC, the corporation has first refusal on any new games which are launched by Camelot. Its refusal to screen the new Daily Play draw and the Euro Millions competition is believed to have prompted Camelot to rethink its strategy for television coverage.
Senior figures in the BBC are worried that if ITV or Channel Five decided to bid for the main lottery draw, the BBC would either lose the rights to the show or be forced to pay more to retain them.
Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat culture spokesman, said that an alternative broadcaster might serve viewers better.
"The lottery is a weekly ritual for millions of people. However, the simple fact is that the television coverage is something of a dead duck. It has been in decline for sometime," he said.
John Beyer, a spokesman for Mediawatch UK, a viewers' organisation, said that the BBC had contributed to the success of the lottery, but its current broadcasts were "infuriating".
"Many viewers do not like the way the BBC insists on building a light entertainment programme around the actual draw," he said. "They think it's overblown and ridiculous."
A BBC spokesman said that details of its agreement with Camelot were confidential. Camelot failed to comment.