Red Notice From Lottery Ticket Sales Agents
- On Thursday lottery ticket sales agents decided to temporarily suspend the strike
- Lottery ticket sales agents have threatened a general strike if no favourable answer is received
- COPE committee probes into allegations related to the Lotteries Board
by Ashanthi Warunasuriya
Lottery ticket sales agents have warned of more drastic action following a dispute over the increase on the price of lottery tickets.
On Thursday lottery ticket sales agents decided to temporarily suspend a strike after President Maithripala Sirisena assured them a solution by tomorrow.
The government on January 01 increased the price of a lottery ticket by Rs.10. The move was however been subjected to severe criticism from both the lottery ticket sellers and the general public.
On Wednesday the National Lotteries Board and the Development Lotteries Board had reportedly decided to suspend the agreements with the agents who were involved in a protest against the ticket price hike.
Lottery ticket agents have threatened a general strike if no favourable answer is received for their demands.
The government claimed the move to increase the price of a lottery ticket was taken as a means to put an end to the financial irregularities caused by lottery sales as well as to increase the chances of winnings for the people.
Pointing out that under the previous administration the funds allocated for lottery winnings had been used in various corrupt activities, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake claimed that the move for increasing the lottery tickets was taken with the sole intention of increasing the winning chances for the people.
Protests were staged in several parts of the country against increasing the lottery ticket price from Rs. 20 to Rs. 30.
Expressing his views on the price hike, the chairman of the All Island Lottery sales Agents Pathmasiri Munigoda said that even though the previous price increase was carried out after seeking their opinion, the latest price hike had come without any such consultation.
Munigoda said that the entire lottery sales community was against the price increase. “No one likes to buy a lottery ticket for Rs. 50. Since there is a 20 Rupee note people are highly unlikely to pay 10 more rupees for a ticket. Normally they give a 100 Rupee note to buy 5 tickets. If this pattern is changed it is going to severely affect the lottery ticket sales.”
He also said that they would not allow new sales agents to work under the new ticket price.
Pointing out that this is a move backed by political motives, the Finance Minister had said that there are people who can replace the ticket agents who are protesting.
The Minister said that the conduct could not be approved in any way as lottery sales agents at present receive the highest commission that could be obtained by selling any commodity in the country.
Speaking prior to a meeting held on Thursday between lottery ticket sales agents and the President, Karunanayake said that the government was taking steps to recruit new lottery ticket sales agents to replace those who had initially withdrawn from selling the tickets.
The chairman of the Lottery Agents Association however claimed that they cannot be removed as the government has entered into a contract with them. When asked if new appointments could be made by repealing the existing contracts, the chairman said that cannot be done by law. Lottery Agents have also predicted a sharp drop in lottery sales under the new prices.
Meanwhile Krishantha Marambage of the All Island Lottery ticket agents Union said that while the price of the lottery tickets had been increased, their commission has been reduced.
He said that the members of his union had decided to close down all their lottery booths last week in protest against this “unfair move” by the government.
The chairman of the Lottery Agents Association Padmasiri Munigoda said that the Presidential Secretariat’s office had agreed to give them a date to discuss the issue with the President and the meeting subsequently took place last Thursday.
Pointing out that that they would be forced to take drastic measures if the government fails to come up with a favourable solution by tomorrow, the chairman said that they have not yet decided on future action to be taken on the matter.
When queried on the allegations of irregularities in the Lotteries Board, JVP Parliamentarian Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa said that the COPE committee has probed into several allegations related to the Lotteries Board including maintaining a monopoly in giving away contracts to private companies to print tickets and printing tickets using low standard material. He said that further investigations are being carried out on these issues.
However reports say steps have been taken by the new administration to make changes to break the monopoly of the printing companies who had been offered the contract of printing lottery tickets.
At present there are over 10,000 lottery ticket agents in the country covering all the districts and there are a large number of sellers working under them.
Especially for disabled people, selling lottery tickets has become a favourable means of income. When the lottery was priced Rs.10, the seller was given a commission of 2 Rupees while the agent was given 50 cents.
The government had promised to offer a commission of Rs. 3.50 to the agents after the price was increased to 20 Rupees. Although there was a sharp decline of lottery sales in the early stages, gradually it has seen a increase in sales.
Compared to the four types of tickets that were sold earlier, at present there are six lottery ticket types. On Thursdays and Fridays, seven types of tickets are taken for the draw.
These days agents receive a lucrative 17.50 Rupees from each Rs.100 sale. However, they have complained that the commission would go down if the prices are increased to Rs. 30.
Pointing out that the business had been good over the past few years, the agents say that there are sellers who sell over 1000 lottery tickets each day. According to them this is a good way of earning Rs.1500, 2000 a day without any hassle. Responding to the accusations on financial irregularities, the chairman of the Lottery Agents Union says that under their contract with the government, any agent could be removed from the contract in case of financial irregularities. “We are asking the government to increase the prices by 5 Rupees.
Then they could give us the 5 Rupees as a commission and take the Rs.3.50 as a VAT income. Then the Lotteries board gets Rs 16.50”.
Meanwhile, issuing a statement on the lottery controversy, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne had condemned the trade union action taken by the lottery agents. Pointing out that lottery is a gamble, the minister has said that most housewives are against these practices.
However, responding to these allegations, the Lottery Agents Union has claimed that the proceeds of lottery sales such as “Niroga” are being given outright to kidney patients. They have in return condemned the minister’s ignorance on the matter.