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Can lottery tickets fund India's healthcare?

By Indivjal Dhasmana
February 24, 2018 08:30 IST
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A leading lottery distributor has suggested the government streamline lotteries in the country to garner funds for healthcare.

A vendor arranges lottery tickets for sale as she waits for customers at her shop in Bangkok's suburbs, Thailand May 26, 2017. Photographt Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters.

IMAGE: A Bangkok vendor sells lottery tickets. Lotteries in many countries across the world collect money that is used for welfare schemes. Photograph: Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters.

Amid a debate over the cost of Modicare proposed in Budget 2018, an offer of support has come from an unexpected quarter.

A leading lottery distributor has suggested that the government streamline lotteries in the country to garner funds for the proposed scheme.

Kamlesh Vijay, a CEO of Sugal and Damani Group, quoted Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac's budget speech to build his case. In his budget speech for 2018-2019, Isaaac said resource mobilisation for Comprehensive Health Care Scheme will be through Kerala Lottery. The scheme is state-specific.

Karunya weekly lottery of Kerala State Lotteries. Photograph: Courtesy Mail2arunjith/Wikimedia Commons.

IMAGE: Tickets for Karunya's weekly lottery of Kerala are on sale. The government-owned Kerala Lottery subsidises healthcare schemes in the state. Photograph: Courtesy, Mail2arunjith/Wikimedia Commons

"Kerala Lottery is celebrating its golden jubilee... the revenue from Kerala lottery will completely be utilised for the above-mentioned health scheme. Henceforth, when you take a lottery, it will not be a mere test of luck. This will also be a contribution towards comprehensive healthcare," Isaac said.

 

In his letter, Vijay asked the prime minister to have a regulatory authority or some kind of commissioner for the orderly conduct of lotteries on the lines of the UK lottery commission.

Currently, only nine states -- Maharashtra, Goa, West Bengal, Punjab, Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Sikkim and Bodoland area of Assam-- run lotteries. It is up to states to run lotteries or not, but if it is running one it cannot prohibit other states to sell lotteries in its area.

Money, credit cards and lottery replicas are on display during the "Alasita" (Buy me) fair in La Paz, Bolivia January 24, 2018. Photograph: David Mercado/Reuters.

IMAGE: Lottery ticket replicas on sale in a fair in La Paz, Bolivia. The US garners $ 19.07 billion which go for welfare schemes. In China, $6.66 billion is collected that go towards sports and another $9.05 billion is mopped up which helps in welfare schemes of that country. In the UK, $ 4.01 billion is collected to fund sports. Photograph: David Mercado/Reuters.

There is an anomaly here. GST on lotteries is 12 per cent for those running within states, but 28 per cent for those running outside the state.

Sale of lotteries is projected to fetch Rs 100 billion to the exchequer in Kerala alone under the budget estimates for 2018-19. Vijay estimates that it has a potential to chip in anywhere between Rs 350 billion and Rs 500 billion in a year across the country.

Vijay rolled out statistics of other countries to buttress his point. In USA, the letter says lotteries garner $ 19.07 billion which go for welfare schemes. In China, $6.66 billion is collected that go towards sports and another $9.05 billion is mopped up which helps in welfare schemes of that country. In UK, $ 4.01 billion is collected to fund sports.

The government had announced National Health Protection Scheme or Modicare for 100 million households or 500 million people. Critics have taken on the government for not providing sufficient funds for the scheme. They also say that the government has not even estimated the correct amount that is required for the scheme.

 

Kerala Lottery tickets being sold by a seller on a cycle in Kerala. Photograph: Courtesy Mail2arunjith/Wikimedia Commons.

IMAGE: Lottery tickets being sold by a vendor on cycle in Kerala. Photograph: Courtesy, Mail2arunjith/Wikimedia Commons.

In a proposal put up before the expenditure finance committee, the Union health ministry and the Niti Aayog have suggested that the total cost of Modicare would be around Rs 250 billion, including Rs 100 billion that is to be borne by state governments, for 2018-19 and 2019-20. Niti Aayog, which is said to be brainchild behind the scheme, however, said this cost was based on “assumption”.

This tantamounts to a premium of Rs 1,082 per family. As per the current practices in the medical insurance field, the rate of premium is in the range of Rs 5,000 or above for a cover of Rs 500,000 per family. Niti has asked the ministry to prepare a realistic estimate of insurance premium after taking into account the prevalent market rates.

Sugal & Damani works as a distributor for state lotteries and provides lottery operational technology to 17 jurisdictions across the globe.

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Indivjal Dhasmana in New Delhi
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