Lottos Roll Dice on Dreams

Yet another Phnom Penh company has launched a high-tech lottery game, gambling that people will continue to dream big even though the economic downturn has forced many to tighten their purse strings. 

The latest game, operated by Khaou Chuly Group’s Interna­tional Lotto Corp, is based in Australia and uses computers and satellite links to connect to Cam­bodia.

Lottery General Manager Yse Sir explained this week the jackpots are made up of winnings that go uncollected in the Aus­tralian lottery. A private Mel­bourne company signs up local partners such as Cambodia. Tick­et numbers are sent every hour by satellite feed to Australia, said Yse Sir.

The tickets cost $1—making it one of the most expensive games in the country—and jackpots range from $10,000 to $15 million, Yse Sir said. Most lottery tickets cost a few thousand riel.

International Lotto Corp is the second company to offer an international, high-tech lottery. The Royal Group last month an­nounced a game based in Liech­tenstein that operates over the Internet. In both cases, consu­mers can buy the tickets from vendors or lottery offices.

Gaming executives say there are many advantages for local companies to participate in an international lottery.

The dealers can offer larger prizes that would otherwise bankrupt companies operating in a small country like Cambodia. “It would take years to collect a million dollars in the pool,” said Yse Sir. “If someone made a hit, we’d be bankrupt.”

And the lottery companies themselves are freed from giving away at least 50 percent of the ticket revenues as required in many countries, lottery officials said.

The new lottery company en­ters a field that is becoming in­creasingly crowded. In the past year, four new companies—the Nation Lottery, Lotto Corporation Cambodia, MGM Lottery, and the Royal Lotto—have joined the Malaysian-owned Cambodia Lottery Corp.

The biggest winner to come out of the burgeoning industry might be Cambodia’s cash-hungry treasury, which, according to lottery company executives, gets 10 percent of all ticket sales. How­ever, it was unclear Thurs­day how much the government has made off the games. Deputy Di­rector of Treasury Ngen Khoin, who is in charge of lotteries, directed inquiries to Finance Minister Keat Chhon, who could not be reached for comment.

It remains to be seen whether Cambodia’s poor economy can support five lottery companies.

Heng Sophal, who sells tickets for three games in front of the Hong Kong Center, said sales have dropped off so dramatically that his daily income has dropped from 30,000 riel several months ago to 7,000 riel. “Business is very slow,” Heng Sophal said. “I think people want to play but they don’t have much money like before.”

Kith Meng, of the Royal Lotto, expressed confidence that even in bad economic circumstances, many people will still want to buy tickets and that the best promoters will be in place to take a greater market share if the economy begins to pick up after the July elections. “Those who have better marketing strategy will stay in the market,” he said.

(Add­itional reporting by Debra Boyce)

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