Last Updated : 2019-07-22 07:51:00

The lottery business A case of probability over luck?

2 July 2019 12:10 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • No follow-up has been made as to whether relevant contributions have been sent to the Mahapola Fund
  • In future, NLB is positive about digitisation and more tickets to be sold via electronic methods

 

 


 
 
 
 
 
“We get Rs. 2.50 per ticket and every day we pay a percentage of the sales to the agent. Business is alright, but sales have dropped due to the attacks”
-Mangala-
 
 
 
 

 
 
If you have ever purchased a lottery and have been disappointed, you’re definitely not alone. Daily, many people place a Rs. 20 bet on their luck, hoping that they would win the jackpot. It’s an everyday occurrence to see ticket sellers reaching out to you while you commute, shouting out attractive slogans such as ‘ada adina wasanawa’ (luck to be drawn today), ‘ada adina koti deke jayamalla’ (a twenty million super prize to be drawn today) etc, tempting you to purchase at least one ticket. Then there are others who spend Rs. 5000-6000 per month, buying tickets in bulk and keeping a tab of the daily draws. The Sri Lankan lottery system operates in a duopoly with the National Lotteries Board (NLB) and the Development Lotteries Board (DLB) having control of the market. Apart from luck, the winner depends on a complicated probability game that takes place behind the scenes. This is particularly with regard to the tickets printed by the DLB according to a special report produced by the Attorney General’s (AG) Department. 
 
In this backdrop, the Dailymirror  sheds light on how ticket sales have reduced over the years and how it affects those directly involved in the lottery business. 
 
 
Highlights of report
 
■The AG Department found that the DLB printed a lesser number of tickets than the number of balls used in a particular draw,
■Less number of tickets printed than the permutated number. (For example ; if the permutated number of tickets for a particular edition of Ada Kotipathi is 31,601,700, only 420,000 tickets have been printed.)
■The number of balls in a draw machine indicates the printing of a large number 
of tickets,
■The prize formula submitted to the Director Board for approval was designed on the basis of ticket allocation and not on the number of printed tickets. As a result, the AG observed that the chances of winning a super prize were extremely low,
■Between 2012 and 2017, 19% of the sales income was sent to the President’s Fund,
No follow-up has been made as to whether relevant contributions have been sent to the Mahapola Fund
■The AG has therefore called for a proper methodology to print new lotteries, to determine the number of balls inserted into the draw machine, to decide on the number of tickets to be printed per draw, the number of draws to be held and the structure and percentage of prizes.
 
Thoughts of lottery sellers ‘Sales have dropped’
 
While on our way to Pettah we met Mangala, a mobile lottery seller, who does business near Gangarama Temple and Hyde Park area. “We get Rs. 2.50 per ticket and every day we pay a percentage of the sales to the agent. Business is alright, but sales have dropped due to the attacks. It depends on how far we walk and convince customers to buy them.”
 
NLB tickets have more winning chances
 

“I somehow earn Rs. 1000 per day. There are more counters around, so we have competition as well. We earn a daily commission of Rs. 2.50 per ticket”

-Shantha Herath-

 


 

 
We met Shantha Herath who works at a ticket counter in Pettah. “We sell both NLB and DLB lotteries. NLB tickets have more winning chances. One customer won Rs. 20 lakhs sometime back. We didn’t have business a couple of weeks back because of the rain and after the attacks people don’t roam around much. I somehow earn Rs. 1000 per day and nothing beyond that. There are more counters around, so we have competition as well. We earn a daily commission of Rs. 2.50 per ticket.” 
 
It’s an everyday occurrence to see ticket sellers reaching out to you
Pics by Kithsiri De Mel
 
 
 
Chances of winning comes with luck
 
Keerthisinghe has his own ticket counter close to Chatham Street and has been in the business since 1995. “The chances of winning come with luck. Both NLB and DLB tickets have equal chances of winning. There’s a certain percentage they have to allocate for funds. The pricing structure for winners are determined after these percentages have 
been deducted. 
 
When some people buy in bulk they think they would have one or more chances of winning, but sometimes they don’t win at all. If someone wins a big prize, the agent gets Rs. 2500 from both Boards. Agents get a commission of Rs. 3.50 per ticket. We have to pay an annual fee to the Municipal Council as well.”
 
People not convinced to buy tickets anymore
 

‘‘It cost me Rs. 15,000 to put up this counter, but the business is running at a loss. We throw away a lot of tickets as people are not convinced to buying them anymore’’

-Jayanthi Silva-

 


 

 
 Jayanthi Silva from Gunasinghapura has been involved in the lottery business for the past 15 years. “I used to sell tickets near the Manning Market and now I’m here. Ticket sales are very poor. It cost me Rs. 15,000 to put up this counter, but the business is running at a loss. We throw away a lot of tickets as people are not convinced to buying them anymore.”
 
Difficult to thrive in this business
 

‘‘There have been one or two instances when people won some big prizes through my sales and that was it. I stay here till 9.30pm 
every day’’

-K.G Rohana-

 


 

 
K.G Rohana, another ticket seller from Gunasinghapura, says that most of his customers are disappointed in purchasing tickets. “Those who buy them as a habit would buy it anyway. But the chances of winning are very less. There have been one or two instances when people won some big prizes through my sales and that was it. I stay here till 9.30pm every day and I have to give the daily commission to the agent. At this rate, it would be difficult to thrive in this business in future.”
 
With NLB tickets, you at least have one chance  of winning : Nissanka
 

‘‘For a day, 1.2 million Mahajana Sampatha tickets and one million Govisetha tickets are being sold’’

-Sujeewa Nissanka-

 


 

 
“With curfew being imposed during the past few days, people weren’t allowed to sell tickets in towns and at crowded places,” said Sujeewa Nissanka, Deputy General Manager, Marketing and Promotions at NLB. “With Mahajana Sampatha we contribute to the consolidated fund, and other tickets contribute their sales to the kidney fund, agriculture ministry etc. We have nine lotteries and we distribute funds to seven main areas. Generally from the sales of that lottery we contribute 10-16%. In some lotteries it’s 16.5%. For a day, 1.2 million Mahajana Sampatha tickets and one million Govisetha tickets are being sold. We operate on all 30 days and contribute the income generated through these lotteries to the development of the country, to be used in these key areas.”
 
“Mahajana Sampatha is a ticket that has its uniqueness,” he continued. “We don’t have to make much amendments to it because it has been there for a long time. It also has a good price structure. If you buy 10 tickets there’s a chance that you would at least win a Rs. 100. Govisetha is another important lottery because our farmers depend on the fund raised to purchase their fertiliser and other resources that help them to continue with their farming work.”
 
When asked as to why sales are less, he disagreed to acknowledge it and went on to show how on a particular day there were over 200,000 winners for a particular lottery. “These figures are increasing. We are not keeping people’s money. A few cents are allocated to manage our organisation and payment of staff salaries. The rest of the money is for the people. The pricing structure is decided by a separate division and it’s audited by the Internal Audit Department and also by the Government Audit.”
 
In future, NLB is positive about digitisation and more tickets to be sold via electronic methods. “We are still into physical lotteries and we have to opt for e-lotteries. We have introduced SMS lotteries now and it’s growing. We now sell 20,000-30,000 lotteries through SMS. We hope to make things convenient for the customers in time to come,” he added.”
 
We print the same number of tickets every day : Jayaratne
 

‘‘According to our mandate the DLB generates income for the President’s Fund and thereafter to the Mahapola Higher Education Trust Fund’’

-Anura Jayaratne-

 

 


 

 

 

“We abide by universal standards during draws,” said Anura Jayaratne, General Manager at DLB. “Some draws require 80 balls and some require more than that. We also have a set mathematical formula to determine the pricing structure. According to our mandate the DLB generates income for the President’s Fund and thereafter to the Mahapola Higher Education Trust Fund. When compared to 1994, today, the chances of winning are less. At its inception there were tickets you could scratch before major brands like Mahajana Sampatha and Govisetha were introduced. So there’s a cannibalising effect. There’s no truth in the utterances that we print less tickets. We print the same number of tickets every day.”
 
However, with the main players allegedly  manipulating the system, it is people like K. Jinadasa, a differently-abled lottery seller from Matara, who daily walks 2.5km by foot to sell his tickets, that are at the receiving end. He saves his daily income of Rs. 250-Rs.300, without spending it on a bus, to feed his family and keep them happy. 

  Comments - 1

  • Kandage Tuesday, 02 July 2019 07:19 AM

    I do not buy lottery tickets because prize money not proportionately distributed among many. Winning a lottery is a dream.


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