Has Thailand hit the jackpot in its latest bid to tackle lottery overvaluation?
The government’s latest bid to tackle chronic lottery overpricing saw over 5 million digital tickets sold in just five days via the “Pao Tang” mobile app last week.
The Government Lottery Office (GLO) moved to the online channel after all other measures to prevent the official ticket price of 80 baht from rising on the black market failed.
Those who have purchased digital lottery tickets through the app have expressed satisfaction that they can do so in a few easy steps, choosing their favorite numbers and even purchasing tickets with identical numbers at “just” 80 baht each – one price considered a bargain for regular lottery players. .
Sales through the Pao Tang app were launched on June 2 for the June 16 draw, with a total of 5.17 million tickets offered on the new electronic marketplace provided by the GLO, according to Tipanan Sirichana, gatekeeper. word of the government committee responsible for combating overpricing of the lottery.
She said the lottery tickets were seized from thousands of registered small sellers who broke GLO rules, selling at inflated prices or reselling their tickets to wholesalers.
Authorities have apparently been inspired by online lottery sales platforms that abuse legal loopholes to provide a virtual marketplace for lottery sellers and make money by charging “service fees” to buyers.
In April, police raided the offices of several major online lottery platforms, including Blue Dragon and Kong Salak Plus, and accused them of selling overpriced lottery tickets.
Overestimating a daily curse
The legal price of the government lottery is 80 baht per ticket, but players consider themselves lucky to be able to buy one at this price. Normally, lottery tickets are sold for 100 baht or more, depending on “demand” (real or invented) for certain numbers – especially the last two or three digits.
Tickets that contain a set of identical six-digit numbers are highly coveted by lottery players. Due to the potential of winning a huge jackpot if the tickets reach the top prize of 6 million baht, they are sold at inflated prices – ranging from at least 100 baht per ticket in a set of two tickets up to 400- 500 baht. each in a set of 15 tickets.
Government after government has failed in its attempts to eradicate the chronic problem of excessive lottery prizes. The junta that came to power after the May 2014 military coup made lottery reform one of its priorities and initially succeeded in limiting the price of a lottery ticket to 80 baht.
However, the success was short-lived, as the excessive lottery prizes returned with a vengeance. Despite a police crackdown and the risk of fines, many lottery vendors still regularly sell their wares at marked-up prices.
Street vendors often charge 120 to 130 baht for a ticket, citing the higher cost they pay themselves when buying from large dealers. Small vendors who are assigned lottery tickets by the GLO complain of a ‘low profit margin’ if they stick to the legal price of 80 baht, as they buy each ticket for 70.40 baht from the agency .
For each lottery draw on the first and 16th of each month, the GLO allocates 100 million tickets on a non-refundable basis – 33 million to major distributors under a quota system and 67 million to 134,000 registered small sellers , who each receive 500 tickets.
There are still around 100,000 unregistered lottery sellers who have no choice but to buy tickets from large dealers at high prices. Some small vendors claim that each lottery ticket costs them 90-95 baht, citing this as the reason why they cannot resell them at 80 baht.
Over 2.4 million digital lottery tickets purchased in a single day
A large portion of Thailand’s population buys tickets, as the government lottery is extremely popular despite the low odds of winning and an allegedly unfavorable payout rate compared to other countries. An estimated 21.4 million Thais buy government lottery tickets regularly while 23.7 million people play the underground lottery – although these two groups may overlap.
A 2003 study calculated that the underground lottery generated at least 92 billion baht per year, although this figure could be much higher now. The study alleged that the illegal lottery business thrives on more than 11 billion baht in bribes paid to state officials each year.
A 2018 survey found that one in four Thais regularly played government or underground lotteries, buying more than 250 billion baht worth of tickets a year. Meanwhile, almost two-thirds of lottery players in Thailand (61.3%) were in the low-income bracket, earning almost a quarter less than the average monthly salary of 15,000 baht, according to an article. of 2006 from a Thai researcher in the International Gambling. Study review.
The GLO tops the top 10 state-owned enterprises contributing to the country’s revenue – 51.1 billion baht last year, up from 46.6 billion in 2020 and 41.9 billion in 2019. Revenue from lottery sales have remained high despite the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 over the past two years.
History of Thai Lottery
The lottery is one of only two forms of gambling allowed by law in Thailand, the other being horse racing in Bangkok. Records show that the lottery was first introduced in the country around 1832, during the reign of King Rama III.
Initially, as most of the players were Chinese migrants, the first Siamese lotteries were based on Chinese-style games, in which bets were placed on cards illustrated with images of animals, flowers or alphabets.
The Western-style number-based lottery was first introduced to the Kingdom in 1874 during the reign of King Rama V to raise funds for charity on his birthday.
Later lotteries were held intermittently until 1933 when the Siamese Government Lottery was established to raise funds for educational and health purposes. It was then that the lottery became a standard source of state revenue.
In 1939, the GLO was established, with a government lottery draw committee appointed on April 5, 1939, which is considered the agency’s founding day.
The GLO became a legal entity and state enterprise under the Ministry of Finance when the Government Lotteries Office Act came into force in October 1974.
By General Office of Thai PBS World