From the Viewsroom

Lottery, any chance?

| Updated on October 01, 2020 Published on October 01, 2020

Covid lotteries can help generate funds for social rebuilding

The teaser of a TV reality show had a pithy line — comeback must be the antidote to setback. This knowledge and skills programme offers considerable rewards, and features contestants who have lost it all due to Covid and hope to rebuild lives with the packet they hope to win. As it is a game of knowledge and skill, a large number may cavil at giving it a shot. Would lottery be a simpler, ‘mass’ answer? But many think a lottery is exploitative, particularly of the bottom of the pyramid, which ends up spending precious resources for something that offers “a snowball’s chance in hell”.

American economist Richard Wolff blamed politicians for “Instead of taking from those most able to pay (the principle of income tax), state leaders use lotteries to disguise a regressive tax that falls on the middle and even more on the poor.” But American leaders present a counter: The money lotteries generate is used for public projects, with education, in particular, benefiting from the ‘’investment made by participants”. Indeed, this investment is considerable, with the US Mega Millions and Powerball lotteries generating $91.3 billion in sales in 2019. Even after respectable payouts in prize money, American states have a decent corpus left.

Does this offer a solution for India, which needs to generate funds fast and on a large scale to mitigate the devastating impacts of the pandemic? The government can think of limited-time ‘Covid lotteries’ that will generate funds and also, as many studies in the UK and Europe have suggested, hope and happiness among the people. All three are in short supply now. The ticket price can be kept low — for wider participation — and instead of a few high-value jackpots, a number of prizes of useful amounts can be offered. And, like some American states, even give the winnings as annuities over, say, five years. If, as is believed, some form of sweepstake helped fund the building of the Great Wall, perhaps our government will be game for a lottery to build hospitals or create health infrastructure.

J Srinivasan Senior Associate Editor

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Published on October 01, 2020
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