28 March - 3 April 2001

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Lotto department preparing for privatisation

By Miriam Dunn

The department of lotto has carried out a wide-ranging exercise looking at various aspects of its operations as it prepares for privatisation.

A report published last week in our sister paper, MaltaToday, showed that although some of the public lotto games did not maintain the same level of popularity last year as they did in 1999, the department still fared well, with total sales registered standing at Lm21.5 million and net profits reaching Lm6.6 million.

The director, Alfred Muscat, told The Business Times that the exercise covers a general business overview, management organisation and human resources and systems.

Other aspects of the department's operations that were looked at included sales and distribution networks, purchases and supplies, financial evaluation, its legal and regulatory framework and risk assessment.

Asked whether any further details are known about how the government's plans to privatise the department, Mr Muscat said it was still unknown as to when the actual privatisation would materialise.

He also said that a number of changes were on the horizon for Malta's lotto games, in particular some of the games that are waning, such as the traditional ‘Tiritombla', the ‘Super 5' and even the ‘National Lottery', which will be given an overhaul and could even be replaced by completely new games.

In fact, the only two lotto games that did very well last year, were the traditional Saturday lotto, which produced the major profits for the department - net profits amounting to Lm3.2 million with sales reaching the Lm11.2 million mark - and the new VAT lottery.

Turning to some of the games earmarked for an overhaul, Mr Muscat admitted that the ‘Tiritombla' could have reached the end of the road, especially since sales were down to Lm448,000 last year.

"This game could very well be near the end of its life cycle and may have to be replaced by a completely new game," he said.

The director said that the department was also looking at ways of improving the National lottery, which could involve having fewer draws.

"With sales of Lm1.2 million, this lottery is more or less breaking even," he said. "But since most of the sales are made in the last three days before the draw, one has to study whether there is a way of improving this lottery, such as reducing it to a twice a year draw."
One game that perhaps surprisingly produced rather disappointing results in 2000 was the Super 5, which registered a drop in sales of 14% or Lm1.23 million.

Mr Muscat said that although net profits from the game still reached Lm3.1 million, the fact that its popularity waned last year meant changes to the format would be introduced from next month.

He explained that the drop was being attributed to the fact that last year, jackpots were registered more frequently, which kept the winning totals at fairly modest levels.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt