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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Millions Await Lotto Drawing

Ten rubles and a dream will mean an instant fortune to some lucky Muscovite when Lotto Million, the country's biggest state-approved game of chance, announces its first official winner Thursday.

The organizers, who expect to make over 1 billion rubles this year alone, say they cannot estimate the size of the prize because it is based on ticket sales.

But so far, sales have not been as brisk as expected at the 1, 000 blue-and-gold Lotto Million kiosks throughout the city selling lottery tickets for Thursday's drawing.

"The past three days have been rainy weather and not many people have bought tickets", said Vitaly Smirnov of Russia's Olympic Committee, the only state organization that will receive a cut from the lottery.

Smirnov said 5 million tickets had been sold for the first drawing as of Wednesday night. With 40 percent of the ticket sales earmarked for the winners, 5 million tickets puts the pool at 20 million rubles, or about $54, 000, to be divided among several winners.

Thirty percent of the weekly windfall will go to Russia's Olympic Committee and the remaining 30 percent will be divided between four parties -- including Intracom, the private Greek telecommunications and electronics firm which has spent $20 million and the last 10 months launching the game here.

The game is similar to lotteries in the West, where players select combinations of numbers -- in this case, six of 49 numbers. There will be several prizes awarded, but if a winning combination is not selected the jackpot rolls over.

The winning combination will be aired Thursdays at 9: 35 P. M. on the state-run Russian Television channel starting this week.

Both Moscow and Russia passed

special legislation to legalize Russia's first electronic lottery in an effort to supplement the incomes of Olympic medal athletes. Gold, silver and bronze medal-winning athletes will receive an additional 2, 500, 2, 000 and 1, 500 rubles each month.

Socrates Kokkalis and Markos Shiapanis, two of Intracom's top executives in charge of the lottery, said they would reinvest company profits during the first year or two, hoping to become the leading lottery game in Russia and Eastern Europe and also to make inroads in the country's telecommunications industry.

Lottery proceeds are inflation-proof, according to Shiapanis.

"If money becomes cheaper, people play more", he said. "If they win 5 million rubles today that will become 15 to 50 million within a few months".

Lotteries have been booming all over Europe and the United States. Revenues last year reached $34. 5 billion dollars in Europe -- a 13 percent increase over the previous year -- and $20. 6 billion in the United States, according to the Switzerland-based International Association of State Lotteries.

Though it will take mountains of rubles to approach levels reached in the West, the company thinks its has good odds of turning a profit.

Smaller lotteries already in existence have introduced Russians to the concept, and a three-week trial run by Lotto Million proved a success, although tickets were given away for free.

The response was overwhelming: 22 million games were played the first week; 30 million were bet on the second week, and 46 million games were played in the last week.

The response should continue to people are down and out, there is a greater chance of their plunking down money for a lottery game and a chance to win wealth.

The game's sponsors can expect 20 to 25 percent of the population to take part in Lotto Million and other similar games during the first four to five years of operation, according to the International Association of State Lotteries.

While most lotteries rely on sophisticated communications, Intracom has had to adapt its electronic infrastructure to the hostile Russian technological environment with its dilapidated telephone system.

Unlike countries in the West, where lottery combinations are registered in individual computers and then automatically filed into a main frame computer, Russian telephone lines cannot support such instantaneous communication.

Instead, combinations will be stored in three places -- on the actual ticket receipt, each kiosk computer and a floppy disk, which will be picked up and delivered to the game's nerve center.

Another area for potential problems comes from the kiosks.

Vendors, who are expected to work from 8 A. M. to 8 P. M. daily, will be paid 5, 000 rubles a month plus 3 percent of all sales.

But an incentive-based work ethic is new here and the company admits that there have been problems with keeping some of their points of sale open.

Grand prize winners, whose names will be withheld to avert security problems, will be paid by bank transfer within a day or two of the drawing, a company spokesman said.