|Over the past 10 years, governments worldwide have turned to gambling revenues, either directly or through tax revenues, to plug holes in budget deficits. In India, electronic lotteries are replacing paper versions tarnished by claims of fraud, as states seek to fill deficits totaling about a tenth of the nation's gross domestic product.|
'This is definitely a source of easy money for these governments,' said Madan Sabnavis, an economist at cement maker Larsen & Toubro.
As televised lottery shows gain popularity, one winner is Playwin Infravest, India's first automated lottery company. Zee Telefilms' chairman Subhash Chandra owns Playwin and broadcasts its draw. Playwin’s launched its first lottery in Maharashtra this month.
Indians spend about 250 billion rupees ($5.2 billion) a year on lottery tickets, according to Ajay Suri, general secretary of the All India Federation of Lottery Trade & Allied Industries. They used to spend 450 billion rupees ($9.39 billion) before some states banned lotteries. Delhi's state government stopped the sale of paper lottery tickets amid accusations of fraud and that it fostered compulsive gambling.
But Maharashtra's new lottery has already come in for criticism. 'It's an extremely bad idea,' said Saumitra Chaudhuri at ICRA Ltd, a ratings company. 'The government has been making enough from tobacco and alcohol - and now gambling. Instead, they should concentrate on raising more tax, cut foolish tax incentives, and control expenditure.'
Playwin has taken 20 million to 22 million bets a week since March this year with sales of 4.5 billion rupees ($0.09 billion) for its 'new form of entertainment', said Sanjay Das, chief executive officer at Playwin.
Players choose numbers on a computer at Playwin booths in shops throughout the state and receive a printed ticket. Draws are shown on satellite channels, including Zee TV.
Playwin expects sales to exceed 10 billion rupees ($0.2 billion) in the first year.