Plan for a new lottery sets ministries at odds

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Plan for a new lottery sets ministries at odds

Government bodies cannot agree on a new type of lottery scheduled to be introduced in September 2002.

The lottery, to be called "Lotto," or 649, requires players to select correctly six numbers from 1 to 49, in any order, to win the first prize. The game is expected to generate revenue of 1.5 trillion won ($1.1 billion) to 2 trillion won in Korea. This type of lottery accounts for 60 percent of the worldwide lottery market, according to an expert.

The Ministry of Construction and Transportation, Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Labor, Korea Forest Service, Jeju Provincial Government and the Small and Medium Business Association formed a coalition to bid for the new lottery project. But the Ministry of Culture and Tourism opposes the new game, which it says would cut into its own sports lottery, Toto.

At a cabinet meeting Wednesday, the tourist ministry said the revenues of Sports Toto would shrink by 90 percent should the new lottery be issued. Sports Toto, which requires players to predict the winner and score of professional soccer and basketball matches, was introduced to fund 2002 World Cup games. The ministry and its operator Tiger Pools spent an estimated 120 billion won to distribute the devices for playing the game.

The governing Millennium Democratic Party said it would set up a committee to settle disputes over the new lottery. A similar committee was created in 1991 to control the lottery craze and was closed in 1998.

"The launch of a dispute-settling body is essential, as friction between the coalition and the tourism ministry seems irreconcilable," said a ruling party policymaker.

"The recent series of conflicts over the lottery business are caused by a lack of legal oversight of the business," said Lee Mi-kyung, the ruling party policy coordinator. "A comprehensive lottery law should be drawn up."

The main opposition Grand National Party also urged the government to tighten regulation of the lottery business. "The government has allowed too many lotteries, taking advantage of the speculative spirit of the masses," said an opposition party member.

But the construction ministry insisted that the new lottery would help.

"Government bodies create lotteries excessively to make up for budget shortfalls," an official said. "The other lotteries will gradually disappear after Lotto is introduced."

by Kim Chong-hyuk

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