Lotto 'tigers' just a tale

Lotto 'tigers' just a tale

The independent web-based media ThaiPublica should be commended for dispelling the myths of the so-called "five tigers" who had been branded as the "tigers which only eat and sleep" for monopolising the lottery trade and for causing overpricing problems.

Making use of the Information Act, ThaiPublica asked the information committee headed by Somyot Chuathai to force the Government Lottery Office (GLO) to reveal the facts about lottery allocation.

The committee was also asked to name the recipients of lottery quotas, both big and small. The GLO's most fiercely-guarded truth, which it has declined to tell the public for decades, finally spilled out.

The public has been misled all along about the existence of the "five tigers", supposedly five big resellers which were thought to control the lottery cartel. In fact, there is no such thing as the "five tigers". Ironically, the biggest "tiger" is, in fact, the GLO Foundation which has been allocated the lion's share of lottery quota for each biweekly draw.

Of the 74 million lottery tickets, 22.74 million or 30.7% of them are allotted to 10 organisations. The GLO Foundation is the biggest recipient, having a fixed quota of 9.2 million tickets. 

Other big lottery quota recipients include the Association of the National Welfare Council (2.7 million tickets); the War Veterans Organisation (2.35 million tickets); the Association of Retired GLO employees (2 million tickets); and a group of corporate entities, namely the Kwanrudee Limited Partnership, Salark Mahalarp Company and Yad Nampetch Company which collectively receive 4.8 million tickets.

The rest of the lottery quotas are distributed to the provinces through the governors (28 million tickets) and to a wide gamut of foundations, organisations, associations and legal entities (22 million tickets). 

The recently released information has raised several questions that the GLO and the government need to answer.

For instance, why is the GLO Foundation allocated 9.2 million tickets in each draw? Where have the profits from the distribution of the tickets gone?

Why are GLO pensioners privy to benefits from a two-million lottery quota whereas retirees from  other government agencies receive nothing?

Why can't the lottery tickets be distributed directly to the retailers? Why is the GLO's annual expenditure so high (about eight billion baht per annum), despite the fact that its business is monopolistic in nature; it does not have to go out to sell its products?

The government's decision to set up a special fund to buy back unsold or unsaleable tickets from vendors will help solve one aspect of the overpriced lottery tickets problem encountered by the vendors. But it still does not address the crux of the matter. One main cause of the problem is that lottery tickets change so many hands before they finally reach the retailers or vendors and, with each change of hands, the price is marked up and someone benefits from it.

The GLO's existing quota allocation, including the quota granted to the GLO Foundation and the other major recipients, needs to be rearranged by the new GLO board to make sure the system is transparent and the tickets are distributed directly to the retailers. 

Apart from addressing problems associated with overpriced lottery tickets, the government should not forget the original aim of lottery which is to help the needy, not to primarily serve the GLO.

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