Life & Style

Lottery dreams

Kerala State sold its first lottery ticket on November 1, 1967, becoming the first State in the country to do so. It has been 50 years since that time when it has been giving prizes worth crores of rupees, transforming lives, making dreams come true for many and offering tonnes of hope to millions. This November the State Lotteries Department celebrates its Golden Jubilee.

TM Yakove has been part of this legacy in a remarkable way. He has a unique collection of Kerala State lottery tickets, right from the first one, all in serial order, till the government stopped this series and introduced new ones. And he has not won a prize even once!

In 1967 the government banned all private lotteries in the State and established the Kerala State Lotteries. The Ministry headed by EMS Nambooripad and his Finance Minister PK Kunju Sahib launched the first lottery amid stiff opposition. The government was accused of abetting gambling but Kunju Sahib managed to implement the programme. The stated objectives was to provide employment, supplement government finance and to augment welfare schemes.

Lottery dreams

The first lottery ticket, designed on the model of the Travancore anchal stamp, had a prize tag of ₹50,000 as first prize and was priced at one rupee.

Yakove proudly displays ticket No. 18915, the first ticket in the series and talks about how collecting tickets became a passionate hobby. “I bought the ticket from Tripunithura. In the beginning the government introduced only one each month. Now there are so many daily and weekly lotteries, not to mention the festival bumper ones every year. I used to buy a clutch of them hoping to win something. But I drew a blank. I then realised that even if I’m not going to win let me start collecting the tickets. So I began buying only tickets that were part of the first series, which soon became Kairali lottery,” says Yakove, who retired from the Department of Telecommunications.

Actually Yakove had no real intention of turning this into a hobby, if you call this one. “Rummaging through one of my old files I chanced on some of the old lottery tickets. Fortunately, there were in serial order, which meant I had not lost any. That was when I thought this would be an interesting hobby. I continued collection till ticket No. 1472, which was issued in August 2010. I stopped collecting once this series was discontinued.”

When the lottery was introduced people viewed it with suspicion, recalls Yakove. “To clear such doubts, the government listed the purpose for introducing this scheme. The first was to support health, the second, which came a month later, to assist education, minor irrigation projects, and then simply for developmental purposes.”

Lottery dreams

Initially, there was a closing date and the date of draw. The first one, for instance, had January 10, 1968 as the closing date and the draw was on January 26, 1968. “The results used to be published in all leading newspapers and even announced through All India Radio. There were only a few places to pick up your ticket. Now there are umpteen lottery retailers, you can get your results online and the prize money has increased manifold and so too have the ticket rates.”

Yakove has tagged the tickets in numerical order, each file containing 50 tickets. In fact, a cursory flip through the files provides a glimpse of the State’s cultural heritage with the famous snake boats, decked up elephants, Kathakali and other art forms. They did not forget to honour PK Kunju Sahib, the man who started this scheme, putting his photograph on the 251st ticket.

There have been occasions when the lottery was not conducted. Yakove has meticulously noted down the reasons for this. “In 1986, two from the series 241 and 242 were not circulated as the lottery agents were on strike. Then in 2000 when the government press employees struck work ticket numbers 920 to 923 were not brought out. The last time this happened in the original series was in 2002 when the government employees were on strike. This time ticket numbers 1032-1035 were not issued.”

When the government celebrated the Silver Jubilee of the lottery in 1992 some of the leading agents were honoured. Yakove tried to make his voice heard hoping to get at least a congratulatory note from the authorities but was disappointed. “Had it not been for people like us the agents would not have been able to meet the targets. I sent letters to the then Chief Minister and Finance Minister but the only response I got was that the letters were forwarded to the concerned department. An official from the lottery dealers association met me and asked me to hand over my collection to be exhibited in Thiruvananthapuram. I refused saying that I needed reliable records to do so. All this has pained me more than not winning a prize.”

Yakove’s letter to the Guinness Book of World Records evoked a prompt reply. They wrote back saying that there was a man on their list who had a collection of 12,000 tickets from over 27 states over a period of 17 years. “But I’m sure it would not be in serial order of one single State.”

Even after 50 years there are many who decry the lottery system, which many believe is a dangerous addiction that survives on desperation. There are other voices too that believe it has gone down well with the people and that this prize machine has changed the lives of many. These days Yakove buys tickets only once in a while. And his only wish is that his humble efforts to keep this legacy going will be recognised during this landmark year.


Kerala is one of the 13 States in India where lottery is legal

There are seven weekly lotteries, one for each day of the week; four for the big festivals like Onam, Vishu, Pooja and Christmas; two special seasonal lotteries, monsoon and summer bumper.

It is estimated that lottery-selling is the means of living for around 2.5 lakh people in the State.

The Karunya lottery begun in 2011 is aimed to generate funds for patients who are unable to afford critical medical therapies. For this, the Karunya Benevolent Fund was launched and over ₹1,200 crore has been raised from the sale of tickets.

The Department, which is a model for other states, has around 500 employees under its Directorate in Thiruvananthapuram, 14 District Offices and a Regional Deputy Directorate at Ernakulam.

On an average of 95 lakh tickets are sold a day, while the bumper lotteries sell at an average of 50 lakh tickets each.

From the revenue of ticket sales 42% goes to prize money for each draw, 32% is paid as agent commissions, around 5% for printing costs etc., and 20% as profit to the government.

The Jackpot

El Gordo (the fat one) is the name given to oldest lottery jackpot and the richest in the world. The first draw took place in 1812 and has been held on December 22 in Madrid every year since, continuing through the Spanish Civil War and the two World Wars.

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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 12:25:48 AM |

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