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Will the dream of fixed-price lottery tickets come true?

A lottery ticket for Bt80 - will it be the realisation of a dream or an unfulfilled fantasy? Those who once or twice a month pin their hopes on getting rich fast are praying that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) will do its best to achieve the former outcome.

Over one month after taking control of the country, the NCPO has demonstrated that it has the capability and competency to get things done swiftly and effectively. The junta's spokesman has even said the military would prove that it could finish in a month some jobs that other governments would take years to complete.

The junta's approval rating has soared as it has shown a determination to tackle pressing issues that Thais have struggled with in their everyday life. The NCPO has vowed to eradicate the influence of "mafias" in businesses such as motorcycle taxis, vans and taxis to protect both customers and workers. It has also regulated the alien workers sector to ensure that workers are protected against police extortion.

There is one mission the NCPO has yet to accomplish, however, and that is fixing the retail price of a government lottery ticket across the country at Bt80.

Successive governments have been unable to resolve the issue of overpriced lottery tickets. Some have promised bold attempts to "unravel the knot" of inflated ticket prices, but nothing tangible has happened. Nobody knows exactly what the blockage is. Could it be that whoever is behind this empire is "untouchable"?

Since the junta declared its ambition to address the pricing conundrum, the issue has become a hot topic of discussion. The junta has vowed not to accept one single baht of kickback from anyone.

However, the NCPO's order that government lottery tickets must be sold at Bt80 at every point of sale in Thailand for the July 16 draw has met with resistance within the lottery business circle.

NCPO chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha later softened his stance by saying that at some points of sale, tickets will be allowed to sell at Bt92.

He explained that the difficulty lies with breaking ongoing contracts signed with wholesalers. However, once the contracts expire, they will not be renewed, he insisted.

Prayuth's remark puts the five main ticket wholesalers, also known as "the five tigers", in the hot seat because the contracts are renewed on an annual basis.

The NCPO has decided to do away with quotas in the ticket distribution system. This will prevent the allocation of tickets to large wholesalers so that they are directly distributed to retailers at a fair price.

Although there is a clear rationale behind the junta's move, the solution may not solve the problem, as retailers may not want to face the business risk of not selling all their tickets.

Small retailers do not have financial backup. Many need to deal with loan sharks to survive, mortgaging their property and assets. They barely survive because they have to pay crippling interest to loan sharks. What would happen if they couldn't sell out their tickets in each draw?

If this is the case, the matter of overpriced tickets will not be completely solved. The junta's management is being put to the test. Let's wait and see if the Bt80-per-ticket mission will become a reality or just an impossible dream.


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