Gov’t to lose millions if lottery privatization postponed

August 04, 2009, Tuesday/ 19:10:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN WITH WIRES
The state may soon be burdened with spending at least $100 million to replace its obsolete lottery machines if it postpones the privatization of the National Lottery (MP) any longer.

The Anatolia news agency reported yesterday that the lottery machines primarily in use to register the numbers picked by players for certain games and combine them in a single pool are about to cease functioning and need to be replaced.

These machines have a lifespan of seven to 10 years in different countries of the world with similar lottery games, and the ones in Turkey were installed over two years between 1996 and 1998 by the US company G-TECH. The MP uses these machines to collect and register numbers picked in many of its games, including Sayısal Loto, Süper Loto, Şans Topu and On Numara.

The MP administration had previously initiated a program to replace the lottery machines several years ago, considering they are soon to become outdated, but any relevant work was postponed after the company was put in the government's privatization program, to be sold off to a private company.

The company currently has 4,000 number recording machines, most of which are in Ankara, İstanbul, İzmir and Antalya.

Authorities insist that these machines must be replaced with newer and more modern versions immediately to keep the system running smoothly. They also assert that more machines are necessary and argue that MP should increase the number of machines it uses up to as high as 6,000.

Meanwhile, the privatization of MP is currently pending as the Privatization Administration (ÖİB) and the MP await the decision of politicians. Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek will express his opinion before the final word on the issue is given by the government.

If the government decides to suspend the sale of the company to a later date, mainly over concerns of earning less amidst the harsh investment climate of the economic crisis, then the MP will not hesitate to push the button for the renewal of the machinery stock.

Interested companies such as the Çukurova Group, Alarko Holding and the Bilkent Group are also watching the government's steps to bid for the MP, which is perceived as a lucrative opportunity with a brisk cash flow.

The ÖİB cancelled the first tender last year for a lack of demand after the initial bids of participating companies stayed well below even the company's $1.6 billion appraised value.

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