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Lottery company keeping Jamaica on hold

InternationalInternational: Lottery company keeping Jamaica on hold

Four years after being granted a lottery licence, and after one false start, Telefun International is yet to begin operating in the Jamaican market, the directors apparently having failed so far to raise the capital to float their games.

At the same time, however, other companies have applied for lottery licences and are awaiting Cabinet approval, Walter Scott, chairman of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission, confirmed yesterday.

Telefun International, which was granted a 10-year licence in early 2001, to operate what would have been Jamaica's third lottery company, introduced a game called Tello in September 2002. But within three months, the company pulled the audiotext telephone game that the principals had initially projected to rake in $1 billion in sales within the first year.

Telefun International has since been trying to raise US$89 million to relaunch some version of the game.

In fact, up to a year ago Telefun was said to be actively seeking funding, and yesterday the BGLC chairman told the Business Observer that "they are still trying to raise money".

Scott said that the licence would expire somewhere around 2010 and that until then "it is entirely up to them what they do".

None of the company's principals could be contacted yesterday.

Scott declined to provide details on the new applicants vying to enter the lottery market, saying only: "That is all I will say about that now."

Tello's failed attempt at entering the Jamaican market was not unlike that of the Jamaica Lottery Company, whose early-1990s' entry with its 'scratch-and-win' game proved a commercial failure.

The principals of that company re-entered the market a few years later, with their 'Lotto,' which became an instant commercial success. Just over a year ago, Jamaica Lottery Company was acquired by Supreme Ventures, now the only lottery operator in the market.

The 'Tello' game that Telefun International had initially floated, had promised instant cash prizes of $10,000 and a daily main prize of $1 million.

But to wager their bets, players would have to dial a 1-888 number and use a World Talk prepaid calling card. They could then indicate how many chances they wanted to buy, at $10 a pop, using their telephone keypads. For instance, someone who wanted to buy two chances would punch the digits 02, while someone who wanted 77 chances would punch the digit 7 twice.

The company said that the use of the Cable and Wireless calling card was based on the fact that it was the only brand in existence when they applied for the licence.

But the game did not catch on. For one, the Jamaican public could not get a handle on how it was played, even with daily explanatory newspaper ads. It eventually floundered.

It is not clear how Telefun International plans to re-enter Jamaica's lottery market: whether for example it plans to revamp the Tello, or introduce a radically different form of gaming.


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