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Monday, April 15, 2002

Playing the number game, online
Peeyush Agnihotri

ONLINE lottery outlet is one thing that Chandigarh lacks but its satellite towns do not. Paper lotteries hawked on roadsides are outdated and tallying the winning digit with that printed in the newspaper, outmoded. In the new millennium the scene has shifted to computer, networking and television. More credible and sophisticated. Visit a departmental store, tick six random numbers on a special slip, pay Rs 10, insert it in a hi-tech gizmo networked to West India and up pops the ticket. Tally it what they telecast on cable TV and you might win more that you can count.

The craze of online lottery is catching on in this region thanks to Playwin Super Lotto, a venture from the Essel Group Playwin Infravest Pvt. Ltd., a company promoted by the Zee Network. The Government of Sikkim is also actively involved in it.

Each Playwin terminal in the country is connected to the main server in Vashi, Mumbai, via V-SAT. The numbers that the player selects is registered with the central system (to which the terminal is connected via satellite). That means each time a playing ticket is printed, the numbers get instantly locked in the main server till the draw is held. The draw is done through a completely automatic machine, a fail-safe option. Patented by Smartplay International, Inc., USA, this draw machine has been imported into India for the online lottery company. The hardware and software for these games has been provided by International Lottery and Totalizator Systems (ILTS), USA.


The draw is telecast live on the Zee Network. The winner is then expected to visit the Playwin outlet to claim prizes, and up to Rs 5,000 the prizes are immediately given by the dealer whereas for more, the winner is required to contact Mumbai office.

Right now, Playwin Infravest has 2,500 outlets all over India. Dealers and sub-dealers earn 5 per cent on each ticket sold. As much as 20 per cent of the money collected from ticket sales is earmarked for the state government to be spent on social causes like primary education and infrastructure projects.

"The response is tremendous. I sell more than 600 tickets a day and the crowd is diverse. In fact, what I have observed is that though persons from higher echelons of society are wary of purchasing conventional lottery tickets, they throng online lottery outlets," Dharampal from Kids Kemp, one of the Playwin's outlets in Panchkula, says. "I am told it's a craze abroad and it's going to be so in India too," he adds.

Purchasing a lotto ticket is becoming a rage. Take for example, the case of Hemant, a Panchkula resident. "Every time I go out shopping or purchasing grocery I end up here buying a ticket. You never know when the Almighty might make you a crorepati yaar," he says.

Sakshi and Shikha, young college going girls, are more organised. "We have our haggling fund, you see. Haggling fund is what we save by bargaining while shopping. With the money we save we purchase online lottery tickets," they say gleefully.

Chandigarh doesn't have any Super Lotto outlets because of UT Administration's policy. But then that doesn't deter youth, like Ritesh, from trying their luck. He doesn't mind motorcycling down to Panchkula from Chandigarh just to purchase a ticket. "What difference does it make? After all, it's nearer my house than any far off sector within City Beautiful itself. And if I manage to win a prize what to talk of petrol, I might buy a Merc," he says, sounding optimistic.

Anand Kumar Garg, another online lottery dealer, observes that the sales increase on the day of the draw. "Right now people are not quite familiar about the functioning of online draws. Gradually, with more awareness, the sales will increase further. Then online lotteries are more of tambola and less of lottery. Therefore, the chances of winning are bright," he says.

For those engulfed by the latest craze, life's all of a sudden become a number combination lock. Every one is busy trying various permutations and combinations. Who knows this time one of them might just be able to hit the right number and get to the jackpot. For others, remember - there's always the next time. Luck never gives, it only lends, after all.