The first State to start the lottery in India and have a separate department, Kerala has seen business booming like never before, but there are mixed reactions to it, with some dubbing lottery as gambling and others, an opportunity to fulfil their dreams.

Started in 1967, Kerala State lotteries has not made any loss since then when total sales revenue was Rs. 20 lakh which zoomed to Rs. 237 crore in 2005—06, Lottery department sources said.

Profit has grown substantially to reach Rs. 56 crore from a meagre Rs. 14 lakh, sources said.

“Turnover from lotteries was Rs. 625.74 crore in 2009—10 and during 2010—11 fiscal the target has been fixed at Rs. 695 crore,” Lotteries Director in charge, Teresa told PTI.

The profit during 2009—10 was Rs 115 crore, she said.

But all these figures do not impress Father Paul Thelekat, spokeperson of the Catholic Church in Kerala. He feels lotteries are an ‘unethical way of making money.’ Lotteries make people rich overnight and some find it very difficult to wisely invest the money, he said.

‘The problem with lotteries is that it is no more fun but a serious addiction to individuals. Gambling addiction is like alcoholism and sheer availability of lotteries ensures that some people who would otherwise never discover their weakness will be sucked into its grip’, he said, adding such people let “fate” decide their future.

Winning a lottery came as a blessing in disguise for 35-year-old Abaas, a headload worker, who was planning to sell his house to pay off debts. Lady luck smiled on him as he won Rs. 40 lakh and 50 sovereigns of gold in the Kerala government lottery draw held on May 27.

Mr. Abbas said he used to buy at least one lottery ticket a week without fail and his perseverance paid dividends as he won lottery for a Rs. 20 ticket. He used to earn between Rs. 2000—2500 a month.

Radhabai, who won Rs. 10 lakh in the government lottery, said she was constructing her dream home with the prize money, while Shaiju, an autorickshaw driver, who won Rs. 20 lakh, said he bought land and got his sister married off. K K Babu, who won Rs. 9 lakh in 1990, said he bought an autorickshaw and was doing well and got married to the girl he loved.

But for 25-year-old Nadira of nearby Aluva, who married the man she loved seven years ago overcoming religious barriers, her husband winning a lottery proved to be the beginning of all her troubles.

She was thrown out of her house with her two children as her husband felt it was time to hunt for another bride younger than her and took to drinking heavily and not going for work.

When Nadira alias Meera questioned him for not going for work, she was thrashed and shown the door.

‘His aim is to find a younger bride for himself’, relatives of Nadira, who have filed a case against him, said.

They plan to approach the Women’s commission too.

According to P. Muralidharan, of Manju lotteries, Kannur, there are about 40,000 employees working for him and lottery was their source of income.

There are many who buy lottery tickets every day and would have spent a substantial sum hoping that they would hit the jackpot some day, Father Thelekat said.

“Even those who win do not use the money responsibly and they immediately become bankrupt,” he said.

There are more than 35,000 authorised agents and over one lakh retail sellers in the State. The State lottery department gives away lakhs of prizes a week through six weekly lotteries and bumper lotteries, Lottery department sources said.

Ms. Teresa said Government gives one per cent of turnover to State Lotteries agents and sellers welfare board, she said.

Last year Rs. 29.74 crore was remitted as taxes by the lottery department, she said.

There are over two lakh people involved in the lottery business. ‘This is a source of livelihood for them and their dependents and cannot be described as gambling,’ she said.