Loten Zangmo

Bhutan Lottery, a state-owned enterprise, is waiting for police and home ministry’s department of law and order (DLO) to stop the illegal operation of Teer, an online gambling game.

Officials from the authorised lottery operator say they wrote to DLO and police in June and August last year.  They filed 52 cases to authorities against teer operators.

DLO issued a notification in 2019 asking the general public to refrain from participation in teer, as it was against the law.  In February this year, the department wrote to police asking them to conduct a thorough investigation on some suspects.

DLO officials say such unregulated online lottery or gambling could create disharmony in society and within families. “Such gambling would lead to loss of money, misunderstandings among family, friends and people,” an official said. “It has far-reaching negative impacts on society.”

Officials explained that the Information, Communication and Media Act of Bhutan 2018 prohibits online gambling.  They say it also violates provisions of the Penal Code.

However, despite all the notifications, teer is thriving.  Many people play the game organised by admins using the social networking app, WeChat.

A corporate employee, who has been playing teer since 2019, says he was just trying his luck. “I am in 10 teer groups.”

He said teer organisers had lost jobs because of the pandemic and they needed to earn a living.

A civil servant said he initially believed teer was organised by some people outside the country but later found it was operated by people within. “Everyone should have a right to living. I don’t see an issue if the operators declare their income and pay tax.”

An engineer, whose wife operates teer, said his family survives through the money his wife earns from the game. “I lost my job and she depended on me,” he said. “If police track us, we won’t have any income to survive.”