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Essar joins the lottery game

Calcutta, Feb. 15: The online lottery fever is fast catching up. With major players logging in, the online lottery market in the country may treble from Rs 1000 crore in 2002 to around Rs 3000 crore by 2003-end.

Fortune, the online lottery brand being promoted by the Rs 17,000-crore Essar group, is set for launch in early March in West Bengal, Kerala and Karnataka. By July, Fortune will have a presence in all 14 lottery-playing states in the country.

“We are starting with around 500 distribution sites in West Bengal. Within the next 12 months, this is expected to go up to 1200 sites, said Vikash Saraf, chief executive officer of Essar Tele-holdings. “In Kerala, we will start with 450 sites and will have 750 sites in Karnataka.”

Essar Tele-holdings is the holding company for the group’s telecom and related ventures in India. The company has a joint venture, CAIRS, in which it holds 10 per cent, with the rest being held by professionals. “There is an option to increase our stake to 55 per cent under certain conditions,” says Saraf.

With Essel Group-promoted Playwin already a firm player in the segment, Fortune hopes to make a headway with two differentiating factors. The group has outlined an expenditure of Rs 60 crore for 2003 for advertising and promotional activities.

“Prize payouts will account for almost 50 t0 60 per cent of the total collections as against 45 to 50 per cent being offered by the competition,” says Saraf. “Another major difference is that we have adopted a technology that allows for ticket sales to continue despite a break in link with the central server. This is an advantage in non-metro areas where there is inadequate infrastructure.”

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