| A player at a Playwin lottery centre in Bangalore. (AFP file picture)
Mumbai, July 5: Technology is changing one of the oldest professions.
Paper lottery is passé. Playwin and Superlotto didn’t work out. The latest lottery is the Internet-based draw of lots working on the same principle as satta and matka.
State governments associated with Net-based lottery, which is catching on fast, intend it to eat into the territory of unorganised gambling.
Net lottery stalls are mushrooming everywhere, from a crowded slum in suburban Kandivli in the city (there are two stalls in Kandivli’s Krantinagar slum alone) to a stall at Churchgate station — evoking protests from activists who believe that these are legitimising gambling.
The Mumbai-based Consumer Action Network recently called a news conference, saying it is luring more youths from poorer sections by the day and also protesting that such lottery circumvents the law.
On the Net, it’s instant karma. A player has to pay Rs 11 for a ticket, choose a digit and in 15 minutes, the results of the draw will appear on the screen. If the chosen number shows on the screen, the player gets Rs 100. There are usually three ticket prices — Rs 11, Rs 22 and Rs 110, for each of which one digit has to be chosen and the winning number gets Rs 100, Rs 200 and Rs 1,000, respectively.
There’s no waiting for a week or even a day for the results, let alone scanning newspapers. But more than that, it is as close to gambling as a lottery has got, with the players remaining stuck to their plastic chairs in one of the Krantinagar stalls and keeping on bidding Rs 11 every 15 minutes till they get a happy sum — or don’t, as in many cases.
The most popular schemes are from the Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and the Maharashtra governments, as lotteries can only be run by state governments, but they have been licensed out to private players who operate the lotteries under various names.
Inside the small stall — it has no name but bears the legend, Rajshree Lottery — there are about 15 people, all men, some of them regulars, and the crowd keeps growing. “This is a safe and legal thing. There is a very high chance of winning. We have seen that if a player plays four times, he usually wins,” says Nitish Shirodkar, who runs the place.
“We get business of Rs 20,000 every day,” he says. “But we are small. A stall near the station gets business in lakhs everyday.”
Among the crowd is Munish, a previous matka player. Matka is the local name for gambling that is basically the same game — numbered slips would be put in a matka (earthen pot) and a draw of lots would determine the winning numbers, with the winners getting a stipulated sum. But Munish doesn’t play matka any more because the stakes are the same there, but the whole thing is hush hush as it is illegal, while here “everything is above board”.
Another man with shining eyes and exuding a strong stench of liquor, points out the triumph of a fellow player, a shopowner from the area, the day before. “He came having lost Rs 700 the day before, but yesterday won Rs 4,000. He had closed shop because he had no money, but from here he went straight to the market to buy stocks for his shop.”
Rajshree Lottery — only one of the numerous such lotteries — is a licensee of the Arunachal Pradesh government.
That Net-based lottery, intended as legitimate gambling by the players, is vouched for by Osman Fayaz, CEO of the Martin group, one of the biggest lottery enterprises and head of the All India Federation of Lottery and Allied Industries.
“The Net-based lottery was started to hammer out the illegal satta,” says Fayaz. It has been successful to some extent already, he says, as it is a Rs 6 crore-turnover-per-day business now, though it has a long way to go before it can catch up with satta, which has a turnover of Rs 10,000 crore per day.
“But money from satta goes into individual pockets; state governments will use the money from Net-based lottery to improve infrastructure,” he says.
This form of lottery has also taken care to bypass the law, says Ahmad Abdi, who heads Consumer Action Network. The Lotteries Regulation Act, 1998, states that no lottery can have a draw more than once in a week and the draw cannot be based on a single-digit figure and Net-based lottery is guilty on both counts.
But the lottery companies say they have not violated the law. They say each lot that is being drawn has a different name — if it is Rajshree or Shubhalakshmi (Sikkim government) or Dhanalakshmi (Maharashtra government) or Goldwin, there are different schemes under each of these names that are being operational. So every 15 minutes, it may be a Rajshree, but there may be 100 such schemes that are being played in a day at a terminal. The player gets the impression that he is bidding for one lottery.
It’s the same with the single-digit stipulation. Though a player is asked to choose a double-digit number by prefixing a number to the series 0 to 9, the results depend on the number the player has chosen and not any double-digit number. An 11-rupee ticket is appropriately sold for 10 numbers — 0 to 9 — to be headed by the number of the player’s choice and only that matters.