Lottery tickets are not just about fortune for many Malayalis, but an addiction

Many residents in Kerala seek fortune in lotteries. For the government, they are the major source of non-tax revenue for the state.
Lottery seller
Lottery seller
Written by :

Prakasan, a resident of Kerala’s Kannur district, claimed that over the past 16 years, he has spent more than Rs 30 lakh to buy lottery tickets. Just on Sunday, October 4, he bought the Pooja Bumper lottery of the state government for a sum of Rs 3,000. Every year, he spends Rs 1 lakh or more on lotteries. “This is also a kind of addiction," 48-year-old Prakasan told TNM. "I have promised my mother that I will not consume alcohol. So with the money left after my expense, I buy lotteries.”

Prakasan lives in a small house, with unplastered walls and floors. He is a construction worker and earns more than Rs 1,000 a day. He also takes extra work to earn more and buy lotteries. Some of his neighbours told Media One TV that he has even skipped his meals to buy lotteries.

"I have travelled across Kerala to buy lotteries. I have heard that lotteries sold in southern districts have more chances of winning. So, I would travel there and buy lotteries in bulk," said Prakasan, who sometimes buys 100 tickets per day. He recalled his late mother used to call him 'pottan' (idiot) for sinking in so much on lottery tickets. "But she loved me. Once I win a huge amount, I will give my sister a good life and I will also get married," he said.

Prakasan is among many Malayalis who have been seeking fortune in lotteries for the last many decades. Some keep a budget every month to buy lotteries, while many others spend their life savings on these tickets. As far as the Kerala government is concerned, revenue from lotteries is the major source of non-tax revenue of Kerala.

The Kerala government started the state lotteries programme in 1967. Per the Economic Review 2020 by the Kerala State Planning Board, revenue from lotteries constitutes 81.32% of the total non-tax revenue of the state. In 2020, Kerala started selling 90 lakh lottery tickets per day.

The motley group of lottery buyers

Antony, a 75-year-old from Kasaragod district, spent a huge amount on lotteries in the last 30 years, but never won a good amount. "Once, I won Rs 10,000. That was the only amount I won. I haven't counted how much I spent on lotteries," he said. Antony's wife Thresia, however, doesn't have pleasant memories when talking about her husband’s “habit.”

"He spent a lot on buying lottery tickets. He even broke into the amount I had saved for our daughter's wedding. It was about Rs 1.2 lakh. He spent all of that on lotteries, without my knowledge. I came to know about two years later,” recalled Thresia. “I still can't bear it," she said.

However, Antony vehemently denied his wife’s allegation. He and his wife live in a small house constructed with the help of the gram panchayat in Kozhikode. At the age of 75, he goes for daily wage work. "Yet, he buys lottery tickets from his paltry earnings. This will never stop," Thresia lamented.

Buying lottery tickets may be an addiction for people like Antony and Prakasan, but not for all. For some, it's a hobby with an altruistic purpose.

Anoop, who works in an IT firm in Kochi, said he occasionally becomes a part of the lottery culture. "But, when I do, I ensure to buy lottery tickets from the underprivileged, those with illnesses, the old or those with disabilities," he said.

"I buy a lottery ticket every week,” Prameela, a school teacher from Kozhikode, told TNM. “I prefer the Sthree Sakthi lottery tickets as it would benefit women. I spend a maximum of Rs 150 on lottery tickets per month. I do not want to spend more, but at the same time, I will not stop buying them." Revenue from Sthree Sakthi lotteries is used for women empowerment schemes.

There is another category of people who buy only bumper lottery tickets, aim for a jackpot. Kerala bumpers usually cost Rs 200 to Rs 300, promising a prize of upto Rs 12 crore.

Sixty-year-old Baskaran, who runs a lottery shop in Ernakulam, has seen different kinds of lottery buyers, who regularly come to his store. "Some buy lottery tickets every day, some buy in bulk, and some come to buy them in the first week of every month. Regular customers would call and book lotteries. Almost all buyers prefer certain numbers, and so, I keep aside the numbers they want. Some ask for fancy numbers," he explained.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute