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"Our ticket sales system enables payment directly to the winner's bank account after a selection has been made, while in other online games money has to be transferred to a certain account prior to gambling," said Monika Salu, Eesti Loto's chairwoman.
The new lottery system at eestiloto.ee enables players to see the history of previous games, which is very important to serious gamblers. The gambler can also choose as many automatic selections as he desires, whereas at kiosks the machine would make only one automatic selection.
According to Salu a number of foreign lottery companies have expressed interest in this unique system, which is very easy to use. The Estonian lottery companyhopes to make money by selling the copyright to the program, which cost 500,000 kroons ($ 29,000) to develop.
Although the site is available in Estonian, Russian and English, the law stipulates that only Estonian citizens and people with an Estonian residence permit can participate in online gambling. The gamblers can pay through the accounts of the three biggest Estonian banks (Hansapank, Eesti Uhispank and Sampo Pank). Eesti Loto will later transfer prizes of up to 10,000 kroons to the same account and contact the winners personally if the sum exceeds that limit in order to arrange the transfer of money.
The lottery company has agreed with the cooperating banks that payments through the Internet to Eesti Loto are to be free of charge, unlike normal payments through the Internet from a Hansapank account for example.
Salu believes the number of gamblers will increase by 1 percent in the first year and in a few years 10 percent of all gambling will be through the Internet. In countries where online gambling sites are less easy to use, the share of online gamblers has reached 5 percent, said Salu.
"We'll gain a lot of new clients that prefer visiting the Internet to lottery kiosks, people who would otherwise not participate. I believe we'll get another 10,000 clients as a result," she said.
Eesti Loto also plans to initiate lottery games via mobile phones next spring and is already negotiating with local mobile phone operators. "The new system enables betting during a sports match via a mobile phone in front of a TV," said Salu.
Salu predicted the company, which controls 95 percent of the Estonian lottery market, will make a 25 million kroon profit on a 138 million kroon turnover this year and pay prizes of up to 70 million kroons.
Statistics show that every second Estonian sometimes plays lottery games, while 15 percent of the population are regular players.