Estonian state: Eesti Loto necessary to introduce less addictive games
This July, state-owned lottery operator Eesti Loto began offering online express lotteries (e-kiirloteriid), which, according to the company, are less addictive than online casino games. The Estonian Ministry of Finance says that Eesti Loto is meeting the primary demand for gambling by shifting players onto less addictive games.
Eesti Loto board chair Riina Roosipuu told ERR that the reason for launching the new services was that the online express lotteries are e-versions of the paper-based express lotteries, which have been sold on the Estonian market up to now.
Unlike online casino games, they are less addictive because the outcome is random, they are slower paced and the odds of winning are lower, she added.
"Online express lotteries are gaining popularity around the world consistent with the growth in demand for online services in general. Eesti Loto's aim is to offer a safer gaming alternative on the remote gambling market. The games are primarily aimed at those who prefer online products," Roosipuu said.
According to Roosipuu, Eesti Loto's online express lotteries have attracted most interest among 26-45 year olds, with a third of all online players playing at least once during the first four months.
"The interest of the players has been even greater than we had imagined," she added.
ERR asked the Ministry of Finance why the Estonian state should own a lottery company at all.
Rainer Osanik, head of the Estonian Ministry of Finance's financial information policy department, said that, in accordance with the Estonian Gambling Act, AS Eesti Loto belongs to the Estonian state and that the company's role is to implements the national gambling policy. This restricts competition when it comes to the organization of lotteries and prevents the encouragement of gambling in order to reduce the risk of addiction.
"At the same time, Eesti Loto will meet the primary demand for gambling by diverting players toward less addictive games," Osanik said.
He pointed out that if gambling has a prize fund and players have a chance to win, then it is considered to be a service. There is also the possibility of fraud occurring via online lotteries, however, as a rule of thumb, in such cases, either there is no actual prize fund or the outcome of the game is not random.
"No such cases have been identified among the activities of AS Eesti Loto. Eesti Loto has to offer games in a way that is accessible to the widest possible client base, while also not encouraging customers to spend too much or divert them to addictive games," he explained.