Thinley Namgay  

Official from the Department of Law and Order (DLO) under the home ministry said that an opportunity to make fast money was the main reason for rapid online gambling.

Despite the prior notification, the department has observed that some of the individuals were still operating online lottery business.

In a recent notification by the DLO on May 8, lottery business such as Bhutan teer, night teer game, Shillong teer game, early night teer, night Shillong teer and lockdown teer games, among others, are still prevalent on various social media platforms.

A DLO official said that gambling activities operating online made it accessible to many audiences. “Moreover, an advertisement for online gambling on social media made it attractive and influenced people to get involved in it.”

The official said that lottery schemes operated by private individuals were mainly to make a profit without proper procedures. “There is no transparency and buyers protection in such lottery products. Some online lottery participants can fall prey to online scammers.”

According to the official, online gambling has negative social impacts due to the threat of addiction as it involves betting and wagering, which can be devastating for the gambler and their family. “With online payment facilities like debit and credit cards, it is easier for the gambling addicts to make payment, making them vulnerable to huge debt which affects the financial stability of the family.”

Online gambling is against the law. The defaulters will be dealt accordingly.

Section 393 of the Penal Code of Bhutan states: “A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of gambling, if the defendant stakes or wagers something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under the defendant’s control or influence upon an agreement or understanding that the defendant will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.”

Section 394 of the code grades the offence as a petty misdemeanour, while section 395 states that the purposes of the above mentioned sections do not apply to an authorised lottery agent. Moreover, section 429 of the Information Communications and Media Act of Bhutan 2018 also prohibits online gambling.

As of now, trade department approves the lottery business while the Chhoedey Lhentshog oversees and approves the activities related to religious institutions including the fundraising activities conducted by monasteries. Any lottery schemes not recognised by these authorities are considered illegal.

Regarding the credibility of Bhutan Lottery Limited, official said that it was a state-owned enterprise being operated under Companies Act of Bhutan and responsibly managed by the government. “Moreover, as a government regulated business, social impacts, if any will be closely monitored and necessary intervention will be made if situation warrants. The profit generated from the lottery goes into the government revenue.”

Lottery schemes—mid dharim and scratch cards—are still being operated and bumper lottery is organised during special occasions under the Bhutan Lottery.

The five lottery schemes at present are Phuensum Dharim, Thuensum Scratch, Super Saya Bumper, Fortnightly Scheme, and Special Ray Drup Bumper.

All these products are preprinted paper lotteries.