Television

Third Essel-backed online lottery Megawin launched

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MUMBAI: And then there were three. After Sikkim and Karnataka, Subhash Chandra's online lottery venture added Maharashtra to its portfolio with the launch last night of the state's online lottery game Bonus Ball.

Essel Group subsidiary E-Cool Gaming has been licenced to operate the lottery while Essel's Playwin Infrawest - as is the case for Sikkim and Karnataka - will provide the infrastructure.

As per the agreement reached in March, E-Cool has made a minimum guarantee to the Maharashtra government of Rs 1 billion in the first year of operation. E-Cool has committed a total return to the state of over Rs 50 billion (Rs 51.5616 billion to be exact) over the next ten years on a net present value calculated at Rs 19.04 billion discounted at the rate of 14 per cent a year.

Playwin currently has 4,000 online lottery terminals in 280 cities across the country, CEO Sanjay Das said. This number would be go up to 10,000 by the end of March 2003, Das said.

Queried as to what was the revenues being generated by the online lotteries, Das said it was Rs 200 million a week. Das also clarified that, at least in the near term, Playwin was not planning to tap any more states to start online lotteries.

In brief, Megawin's operations run in this manner. The central server is located in the Mumbai suburb of Vashi. Lottery terminals situated at prominent locations across the state will scan payslips submitted and these will then be communicated to the central server. The central server will give a unique validation number as well as the security barcode to the terminals which will then be printed out. To give the audience a flavour of what could be expected one free ticket was issued to all present. One had to vertically strike out six numbers in a single block.

The draws will be shown live on Zee TV. All lottery tickets will carry the elephant logo, which belongs to the department of state lotteries.

Fending of criticism that the move was encouraging gambling, state chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said that a fund would be set up which would devote a portion of proceeds estimated to be around 40 per cent to the development of rural areas in the state. Deshmukh also said that the lottery would be available in other states as well but that the government would have to constantly innovate the gaming system as agents appointed by other states give a much lower share of the profit to the government.

The media attention largely focussed on the stars of 'Devdas' Aishwarya Rai and Shah Rukh Khan, both of whom made a late entrance. Also part of the Bollywood brigade were Vivek Oberoi, Bipasha Basu and Priyanka Chopra. They, as well as the politicos, were welcomed on arrival by the roll of drums and trumpets to give the proceedings a local Maharashtrian ambiance.

All that remains to be seen now is what per cent of Playwin's total revenue is generated from Maharashtra.

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