THE authorities have yet to hit on a winning formula to prevent the sale of over-priced lottery tickets, and doubts have been quick to surface over the prospects for the latest strategy.
The Government Lottery Office (GLO) has announced plans to bundle the tickets and sell them directly to retailers.
GLO spokesman Thanawat Pholvichai conceded that three years of law enforcement aimed at punishing those who sell the tickets for more than the controlled price of Bt80 each had failed. Addressing a public hearing on the bundling plan before 600 people in Chiang Mai yesterday, Thanawat described as another failure a move to increase the number of tickets released from 37 million to 80 million.
The government and many civil groups do not want to see any further increases in the supply of tickets due to concerns over the impact of gambling on society. Also, an oversupply of tickets could cause losses for many retailers, Thanawat warned.
Chief among the new measures planned by the GLO to tackle over-pricing is the bundling of the tickets for direct sale to retailers.
Thanawat said that under the proposed new arrangement, five tickets with the same set of six-digit numbers have the chance to win the first prize of Bt30 million, and each of these tickets would carry a first-prize value of Bt6 million. Retailers would have the option to sell the five tickets as a bundle or split them for sale as individual tickets.
Phansak Khamkaew, a social activist who runs a knowledge centre in Lampang province, said that the option for the bundling of the tickets would not solve the problem of over-pricing,
The question is, said Phansak, what the GLO would do next if this latest strategy again ends in failure.
Thanawat countered that if the GLO bundles 70 per cent of the tickets, this may solve the problem. If not, the GLO could introduce an online-based lottery.
However, people would lose jobs if the GLO switched to online ticket sales, he said.
Many participants in the meeting expressed their support for the ticket-bundling proposal.
Currently, middlemen gather lottery tickets from large numbers of retailers, then bundle the same numbers for re-sale to them at higher prices. All these steps in the chain lead to higher prices for ticket buyers, Thanawat said.
Currently, the GLO sells 80 million tickets twice a month, without bundling them. But middlemen bundle about 70 per cent of the total tickets.
Lamyong Kannai, who represents a disabled group in Chiang Mai province, urged the GLO to provide bundle tickets to the disabled first in order to raise their living standards.
Sawang Kaewkantha, executive director of ThaiCivil Fund, a social activist organisation in Chiang Mai, suggested the GLO and the government should focus on how revenue from lottery ticket sales should be spent.
As many of the people buy the tickets regularly are poor, the government should allocate 15 per cent of the sales to initiatives that support lower-income groups, he said.
The GLO will hold more public hearings before proposing that the GLO board decide in June on whether the agency will introduce ticket bundling.
The agency may first introduce bundle measures in second half of the year, Thanawat added.
He said that, so far, most of those who have attended public hearings – including in Bangkok on Monday - supported the GLO plan to bundle the tickets.