Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 213

Enterprises in the leisure sector are reaping the benefits of rapid increases in the disposable income of residents in the Baltic countries. Three instances of this are lotteries, gambling and film. Between 1993 and 2000, real wages rose 33 percent in Latvia, 52 percent in Estonia and 67 percent in Lithuania. At the same time, the share of income spent on food and beverages has declined from 51 percent in 1993 in Lithuania to 42 percent presently. The share in Estonia and Latvia has fallen even further.

Estonia’s state-owned lottery Eesti Loto made a profit of 5.4 million kroons (US$310,000) on turnover of 97.7 million kroons in January-September 2001 (BNS, October 30). Sales were up 14 percent year-on-year. The firm paid out winnings of 49.5 million kroons in the nine months, up by 16 percent. Eesti Loto also paid out 11.7 million kroons in state taxes. In the first three quarters of 2001, the three Lithuanian lottery organizers reported an aggregate net profit of 1.67 million litas (US$417,000) and an aggregate turnover of 69.34 million litas (BNS, October 23). The turnover was up by nearly one-fourth and net profits increased by more than seventeen times from 96,300 litas in the year-earlier period. Olifeja, the market leader, paid out 29 million litas in winnings in the first three quarters. According to Latvia’s Lottery and Gambling Supervision Inspectorate, lottery sales were up 16.2 percent to 1.73 million lats in that period, and gambling turnover was up 10.3 percent to 22.13 million lats (US$35.3 million) (BNS, October 25). Latvia has a total of twenty-one companies operating in lottery or gambling. The state budget took in 178,000 lats from lotteries and 3.25 million lats from gambling in the first three quarters. Lithuania, seeing the fiscal rewards of legalized gambling, just recently approved gaming. In October, Estonia’s Olympic Casino Group was issued Lithuania’s first gambling license (BNS, October 19).

For more family fun, movie theaters have seen increasing attendance. By mid-October, 500,000 filmgoers had visited the Coca Cola Plaza multiplex movie theaters in Estonia, after just seven months in business (BNS, October 19). All of the new shopping malls sprouting up across the region now include multiplex theaters. The “Akropolis” leisure complex that the Vilnius Prekyba Group plans to build in Vilnius includes not just a multiplex theater, but also a bowling alley, ice rink, sports fields and the first water park in Lithuania (BNS, August 22). In October, Finland’s Finnkino announced plans to invest 35 million litas (US$8.8 million) in the renovation of Vingis Cinema in Vilnius, and to open “leisure centers” in Kaunas and Klaipeda in the future (BNS, October 25). Finnkino also opened an eleven-theater cinema complex in Tallinn in April and is building a new theater in Riga.

The Coca Cola Plaza belongs to Forum Cinemas, which is planning to open similar theaters in Riga and Vilnius. Finnkino owns 90 percent of Vingis Cinema, which has about 60 percent of the local market and a projected annual turnover of 1 million litas by 2003. Currently, the theater has four theaters with over 1,000 seats; the post-renovation complex will feature twelve theaters and 2,500 seats. Finnkino estimates that approximately 1.9 million people, 50 percent of them in Vilnius, visited Lithuanian movie theaters last year.