THE CONTROVERSIAL bill on government lottery tickets has made it to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA).
The first reading took place yesterday amid loud complaints about the draft law.
The most controversial article of the bill on the Government Lottery Office (GLO) is Article 7, which gives the GLO board the power to decide on the number, the format and the distribution approach of government lottery tickets.
Several critics have raised concerns that the clause might allow the GLO board to issue two- and three-digit lottery tickets, which were introduced in Thailand about a decade ago and became grounds for prosecution of the Thaksin Shinawatra-led Cabinet.
In 2009, the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Office convicted Warathep Rattanakorn, the deputy finance minister in the Thaksin-led government, of abuse of authority for approving the two- and three-digit lottery tickets. Warathep was fined and given a suspended jail term.
Representatives of several civic networks headed to the NLA yesterday to voice their concerns about the bill and made recommendations for changes.
NLA vice president Surachai Liengboonlertchai met with the group and promised to inform other NLA members of their opinions.
“I understand that there are many concerns about this bill,” he said.
According to the civic networks, the Cabinet – not the GLO board – should be given the power to design new formats of government lottery tickets if any.
They believe the GLO board’s mandate should be restricted to studying and evaluating new formats without any right to approval.
Tanawat Ponvichai, a member and spokesman for the GLO board, said earlier this week that the new bill was prepared to replace the current law that was introduced more than four decades ago.
“The bill is written in a way that will allow new formats of lottery tickets so as to ensure that a new lotto product can be launched,” he said.
Tanawat said public hearings had already been held and public opinions had been gathered before the bill was submitted for the NLA’s deliberation.
“There is some opposition, but it’s not that stiff,” he said.
He insisted that Article 7 was not included with the aim to fill Thai society with temptations.
Apart from the clause about the possible launch of new-style lottery tickets, the bill states that prize money can be accumulated.
The bill, moreover, seeks to prescribe hasher punishments against lottery overcharging.
Although the government has been trying for years to prevent overpriced lottery tickets, the problem has persisted.
Now, the bill proposes that those selling a government lottery ticket at a rate higher than the price tag face a maximum fine of Bt10,000 and/or a jail term of one month. Under the current law, the penalty is punishable by a fine up to Bt2,000 only.