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Online betting on races on the cards

Calcutta, July 5: Racing aficionados say Pallonji Mistry — one of the leading patrons of horseracing in India — will never tire of winning races and backing horses.

Not only does Pallonji Mistry, the flag-bearer of the Shapoorji Pallonji group, have one of the best collections of thoroughbreds in the country, he also keeps scaling up his financial support to the sport.

But now, it’s payback time. The Shapoorji Pallonji group — a large corporate group with interests in construction and better known as the single largest investor in Tata Sons, the Tata group’s holding company — is eyeing business opportunities in horseracing, or bookmaking to be precise.

If all goes well, not only will the 235-year-old group make megabucks from it, but it could even catapult the beleaguered sport to a new level of popularity, say observers.

The group has formed a company by the name of DhanDhanaDhan Infotainment — or D3I in new-generation speak. To start with, it is going to promote online lottery in the same way as the Subhash Chandra-owned Essel group’s Playwin.

D3I is rolling out “state-of-the-art terminals” made by the Olivetti group for its online lottery business in the 13 states that allow people to play lottery. These hi-tech machines are capable of doing a lot more than just dispensing lottery tickets.

A year down the line, the group plans to introduce other gaming services through the same channel. Horseracing is likely to be the first on the list.

As people have wagered money since time immemorial, D3I chief executive Rajan Kaicker asks: “… why not legalise it' It’s going to benefit the government.” Kaicker, who was previously chief executive at Ten Sports, was instrumental in televising horseracing in India. He now plans to introduce bookmaking through D3I’s terminals.

“D3I could evolve as the first William Hill of India if its terminals can take bets on horses and the races are televised live,” says a racing expert. Kaicker says neither is a problem.

If Kaicker’s dream comes true, you would not have to go to the Turf Club anymore to watch and bet on races. All you have to do is walk down to your neighbourhood D3I shop to join the sweepstakes.

Observers say this is going to bring into the racing circuit punters in hordes from towns like Siliguri, Burdwan and Asansol where there are no facilities to bet on horses.

However, for the next 12 months or so, D3I is going to concentrate on securing a national footprint and promoting online lottery. “The potential of online lottery is huge — it could completely wipe out the Rs 55,000-crore paper lottery market. The Rs 750- crore online lottery industry could go up to Rs 5,000-crore in no time,” Kaicker said.

“Lottery is permitted in 13 states — Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, Karnataka and the seven north-eastern states. Rajasthan is going to join the bandwagon soon. We understand that three to four more states are going to follow suit by the end of this year,” he added.

The USP of D3I's lottery is the better odds of winning. “We would be giving out in prizes up to 69 per cent of our ticket sales, which is significantly better than our competitors. The probability of winning per 100 participants, too, is substantially better than others,” Kaicker said.

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