Resurrecting the lucrative sweepstakes could bring short to medium term INR relief
Lottery: The newly elected government is yet to begin discussions with Indian counterparts on restarting the lottery business, a pledge it had made during the campaign as one of the means to increase INR (Indian rupee) earnings and solve the shortage the economy is facing.
As a campaign pledge, the PDP government said that, within the first 90 days of office, it would begin initial discussions with the government of India on restarting the lottery business.
According to proposals submitted by five interested Bhutanese to the previous government, revenue of more than Nu 9.5B can be earned annually from online lottery alone.
In the previous government’s tenure, the government-owned lottery business was shut down after allegations of irregularities made by the Kerala state government.
The interim government in 2007 had given the license to operate the Bhutan lottery in India to a lottery kingpin in India, who had at least 60 pending cases against him on fake lotteries.
The government was earning around Nu 200M annually as the bid amount from Indian agents to run Bhutan lottery in several states in India. The draws are held in Bhutan but the printing of the paper lottery was done by agents in India.
This week, two Indian nationals, who were the agents in India before the business was stopped in 2011, visited the finance minister recently to discuss the possibility of reestablishing their agency-ship.
Finance minister Namgay Dorji said no concrete decision has been made about the reopening of lottery business as of now. “The government has been kept quite busy with the stimulus fund and the 11th plan-related preparations and discussions,” he said. “I told them the same thing, that studies had to be done before agency-ships are given to anyone.”
“I don’t think we can give the agency ship to anyone we like, most probably it would have to go through a competitive bidding process.”
But before that, it was important for the government to find out where exactly it had gone wrong before and how to rectify that, said the minister.
Bhutan is able to sell lotteries in India, as it enjoys a free trade agreement with India.
The 2006 agreement on trade, commerce and transit between the two nations states that the term ‘free trade and commerce shall be understood to include within its scope sale of Bhutan lottery tickets in India, and the sale of Indian government’s lottery tickets in Bhutan.
The hydropower sector on an average earns Rs 11B a year. If the lottery business does bring in an annual revenue of Nu 9.5B, it would go a long way to resolving the INR shortage at least for the medium term, an economist said.
By Nidup Gyeltshen