With the lottery back in business, many have already purchased tickets and are eagerly awaiting the big day to see if they win Nu 1 million or at least Nu 500,000.
Clearly, one of the advantages of a national lottery is that money is created for the government. The government plans to use the money generated to fund education and the health trust fund, among others. We all know that these two services are provided free to us and therefore the lottery will be one way of sustaining the effort.
But it is also important that the means justify the ends.
Therefore, it is essential we keep a close eye on how much the government invests in the lottery business annually and how much it makes. The government must also exhibit complete transparency in how it uses the income from lottery. That way we know that even if we don’t win anything, at least our contribution is put to good use.
But we must also be mindful of the possible negative impacts it may have on our society.
Just because this legalised form of gambling does not destroy families and lives, does not clear it of any long term adverse impact. Studies argue that whatever money is taken from buyers for lottery tickets means money denied to local businesses. There could be economy-wide implications.
The media, non-government organisations and colleges must attempt to research and find these impacts and implications once the lottery business is in full swing. For instance, we need to find out who is buying the lottery on a regular basis; which income group they belong to and what percentage of their incomes they spend on the lottery.
What is important to realise is that even though the lottery is legalised gambling, it is still gambling, and therefore could become an addiction for some.
In some countries, there are cases where people still end up spending whatever little they have on the lottery. We need to ensure this does not happen in Bhutan.
There are some theories that argue that lotteries hit those in the lower income groups the hardest. If this is true, the government must be careful on how it advertises the lottery business. As the Prime Minister said, the chances of someone winning the jackpot is minuscule, and that no one should be spending more than Nu 200 a month on the lottery. Therefore, the advertising should not say otherwise and lure buyers, especially those who are in the lower income groups with promises of overnight riches or that hitting the jackpot equates happiness. We all know that money does not buy happiness.
The lottery business will always generate debate so in the end, it falls on us, as individuals to not do anything in excess but in moderation.