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20 June 2017

The Oldest Lottery in India

The Kerala Lottery: India's Favourite Lottery

Kerala is a state on the South Western tip of India, home to more than 30 million people. It is notable for having both the highest life expectancy and the highest literacy rates in India, as well as for having the highest ratio of women to men anywhere in that country. So quite the destination for eligible bachelors! By all accounts it is also a very beautiful part of the world – so much so that its nickname is ‘Gods own country’ - but our interests in Kerala are due to the daily lottery that is run by the government of that state.

The Kerala Lottery: India's Favourite Lottery

The Kerala lottery has been running in one form or other since 1967, when it became the first state lottery in India. The lottery was founded with the intention of providing employment and also providing a source of revenue for government without the necessity to impose more taxes. It has certainly succeeded on both counts, with over 140,000 people involved in the retailing of lottery tickets and billions of rupees making their way to the state coffers.

Million Dollar Industry

In fact, some of the figures which relate to the Kerala lottery are quite staggering. There are (at least) 7 lottery draws per week, each with a different name and offering fixed prizes of up to 10,000,000 Indian rupees. Almost 40 million tickets are printed every week with 7 million in circulation every day. In a region where the vast majority of households survive on a monthly income of less than $100, it is no wonder that the allure of the Kerala lottery has proved so attractive to so many. With many tempted by work on offer in the neighbouring oil-rich Gulf countries, jobs are replaced by economic migrants from poorer regions such as West Bengal. For one such migrant the journey proved altogether more rewarding than he could possibly have imagined.

Dream Ticket

22-year-old Mofijul Sheikh came to Kerala to seek work as a day labourer, and he managed to pick up work on the first day after his arrival. That same Friday evening he used some of his wages to buy a 50 Rupee Kerala lottery ticket from a roadside vendor, valid for the ‘Karunya’ brand of the lottery on Saturday night. When he got a hold of the newspapers on Monday, the young man discovered that his was the winning ticket, and 10 million rupees were his. Gripped by an (understandable) paranoia that someone might try to separate him from his lucky ticket, he went to the nearest police station and asked for refuge. The police rather generously allowed him to spend the night so that he could wait for the banks to open the next day, since that particular Monday was a holiday. Having ensured that his ticket was secure, the young father immediately made plans to return to his home-town considerably better off than when he left it.

It is stories like this which keep the dream alive for people in Kerala, combined with the fear of missing out on a big win. In just the past 5 years the already healthy revenue generated by the sale of lottery tickets has increased five-fold as more lottery draws are added. Throughout the year bonus jackpot draws of up to 100 Million rupees are arranged to coincide with feasts and holidays, driving up demand even further. The downside of trying to harness so many people to run daily lottery draws is that complaints of money laundering, corruption and fraud have dogged the lottery, although the majority have enough trust in the system to keep buying those tickets.

While the Kerala Lottery is not among the range of international lotteries available from Lottoland, there are plenty of other options available to bet on no matter where in the world you are. Whether you are interested in record-setting jackpots like those on offer from the US Powerball and Euromillions, or the great value of French and Spanish lotteries, there is something for everybody.