Pools fans bet on the Internet

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Football fans around the world can now use the Internet to play the pools. Zetters, the smallest of the three British football pools companies, has launched a site on the World Wide Web to try and outmanoeuvre the National Lottery.

Fans can play the game from anywhere in the world using little more than a computer, modem, and a credit card. Punters play by filling in an electronic form, which also contains their credit card details, and then sending it via the World Wide Web to the host computer in Jersey. If they win they are told the following week by e-mail.

The system also allows punters to place standing bets for up to 999 weeks. Many gamblers using the system are placing standing bets initially for one year. Zetters is now receiving hundreds of bets per week through the new system. Jamie Easterman, who helped develop the betting system, said he envisages transactions through the Internet becoming the company's main source of revenue.

Security fears about the Internet have cramped its development as a commercial arena. Those worries are now fading as practically unbreakable encryption systems come into widespread use. The Zetters system relies on the same encryption system used by Netscape - the main programme used to browse the World Wide Web - to transmit information over the Internet. The system allows people to send scrambled information over the Internet which is readable only by the intended recipient.

Mr Easterman said that security fears have been greatly overplayed. "If you compare walking into a restaurant and handing over your credit card details with this system then there's just no comparison. This is far more secure," he said.

Zetters hopes to capitalise on the global gambling market rather than trying to grab market share from its British rivals. Americans and Hong Kong citizens have shown the most foreign interest so far.