Choki Wangmo 

To stamp down gambling and fraud, the Department of Law and Order issued a public notice strictly prohibiting operation of any lottery business by private individuals or entities a few days ago.

The prohibition extends to lottery operations by religious institutions, NGOs, educational institutions, armed forces, and other organisations.

The public notice, which was first issued in 2011, applies to different forms of gambling and the related stalls, particularly during festivals and tshechus.

According to an official with the department, the implementation will be gradually enforced because it depends on the directives from the government. “The enforcement means that henceforth, these kinds of activities won’t be allowed,” he said.

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 for activities conducted by monastries.

“If the approval doesn’t come through the aforementioned routes, the lottery business and related activities are all illegal,” the official said.

The defaulters would be dealt according to the Penal Code of Bhutan 2004.

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 misdemeanor, while section 395 states that the purposes of the above mentioned sections do not apply to an authorised lottery agent.

The finance ministry established Bhutan Lottery Limited in 2016. The authorised agent is a state- owned enterprise with multi-sectoral board of directors chaired by Finance Secretary with senior representatives from the ministries of Foreign, Home and Economic Affairs.

There are five lottery schemes: Phuensum Dharim, Thuensum Scratch, Super Saya Bumper, Fortnightly Scheme and Special RayDrup Bumper 2019.

According to the official reports, the country saw rising gambling cases in the last two years. Meanwhile, Bhutan Lottery Rule 2017 is in the process of being drafted.