Charity campaign by government rids buyers of gambling guilt

Piggybacking on charity and driven by an advertisement blitz that aims to take off the guilt of gambling associated with lotteries, the Kerala State Lotteries has made huge strides in the past couple of years. And, in the process, the Lotteries is emerging as a major contributor to the State’s coffers.

The government-run Kerala State Lotteries, which has stepped out of the shadows of Bhutan and Sikkim lotteries, is poised to outdo its own target of Rs.3,000-crore turnover in the coming financial year. Against a targeted turnover of Rs.1,860 crore set by the government for 2012-13, it has sold, just 12 days shy of the closure of the current financial year, tickets valued at Rs.2,650 crore. When the year closes, the Lotteries will have sold Rs.2,750 crore tickets. This would mean a net profit of over Rs.800 crore

Though the target for the next financial year is Rs.3,000 crore, going by the current uptrend in ‘lottery habit’ of Keralites, the figure might overshoot far ahead. Biju Prabhakar, Director of the Lotteries, told The Hindu that the popularity of ‘Karunya,’ the flagship scheme linked to charity, was surging and that it was expected to gross more next year. Karunya alone had accounted for close to Rs.400 crore sales this financial year.

A share of the profits from Karunya goes to the treatment and care of poor patients suffering from serious illnesses such as cancer. Mr. Prabhakar said so far this financial year, Rs.79 crore was spent on the treatment of 7,500 patients. Next year, the figures could go up sharply.

Karunya has given a fundamental makeover to the image of Kerala Lotteries—in fact, to the very concept of lottery itself in Kerala. By a clever and effective marketing strategy of linking charity and patients’ care to the lottery, Karunya touches people’s hearts. Karunya has drawn tens of thousands of ordinary people, a large chunk of housewives included, to the lottery because of the sentimental campaign. They think that they are doing their bit to the poor, dying patients. And, for those who buy lottery tickets hoping for a windfall of fortune, Karunya’s do-gooder image gives an excuse.

The Karunya advertisement campaign, which features film actors and even Finance Minister K.M. Mani, subtly sells the idea that buying a lottery ticket is not gambling, but an act of charity towards poor patients who cannot afford treatment. It takes the guilt out of the act which essentially is gambling.

Other factors

Mr. Prabhakar agrees that the Karunya campaign focussing on charity had helped sell other lottery products as well because of the goodwill generated by Karunya. However, other factors had also helped the Lotteries to sell big. A major factor of course was the ban on the Sikkin and Bhutan lotteries, which used to mop up hundreds of crores of rupees from Kerala every year. The attractive prize money offered under the seven different draws was an important factor, too. For the lottery agents, the two per cent extra margin given to those buying more than 10,000 tickets was a great incentive. Previously the incentive was available only to those who bought four lakh tickets.

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