What are the odds?! Is Thai Lottery Hope or Despair?

What are the odds?! Is Thai Lottery Hope or Despair?

Despite the slight winning chance of one in a million, the lottery remains the popular form of gambling among Thai people.

Statistics from The Government Lottery Office (GLO) show that the public revenue from selling lottery tickets escalated from 40,850.44 million THB to 53,736.21 million THB from 2018 to 2022 (around 31.5% in only five years).

A Brief Guide to Thai Lotto

The only legal lottery in Thailand is regulated by GLO. The draw takes place on the 1st and the 16th of every month. Except for those that coincide with the national holidays as follows:

  • 1 January draw will be issued on 30 December (New Year’s day)
  • 16 January draw will be issued on 17 January (Teacher’s day)
  • 1 May draw will be issued on the 1 May (Labour’s day)

Anyone from the age of 20, Thai or foreigner, can claim the lottery prize at the Government Lottery Office or most Thai banks. In June 2022, Thai lottery tickets became even more accessible with the introduction of digital lottery tickets.

With this seemingly easy shortcut to their millionaire dreams, Thai people have invented many ways to win the lottery according to their beliefs. For instance, getting a number from their dreams, the age of the deceased, or the number they got from rubbing a tree (specifically, “Takian” trees).

The money collected by selling lottery tickets is distributed as prizes for the winner and the public revenue. Despite the fact that the government can use the money to improve public facilities, encouraging people to gamble is not appropriate. Despite the enticing prizes, the chances of winning the first prize (6 Million THB) are as low as 0.001%.

Why Do Thai People Play the Lottery?

It was found that Thai people were more familiar with buying lottery tickets than investing or funding.

The survey about consumer behaviour in lottery from The Institute of Future Studies for Development (IFD) reported that 61.1% of the Thai population bought lottery tickets. On the contrary, only 8.3% said they would consider investing in stocks and funds.

The main reasons given by the 91.7% who refused to invest in stocks and funds are a lack of knowledge (65.7%), high risk (24.7%), a large amount of money required to begin (22.4%), and difficulty in tracking stock prices (20.9%).

These statistics help us better understand why people buy more lottery tickets. Anyone can easily access tickets from vendors all around Thailand. The price is announced on television and the GLO website. More importantly, getting 6 Million baht or approximately 168,000 USD simply by buying tickets sounds like a dream.

And the scary part is that it does only sound like a dream. Many people believe that they have an opportunity to improve their economic status. Still, the chance of winning the lowest prize is 1%, while the chance of winning the jackpot is only 0.001% as mentioned. Yet they are unaware of this because, as Robin Williams (a Professor of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge) described, humans can’t really grasp how unlikely that number is.

Psychological Reasons Behind Lottery Buying Behaviours

Another sad perspective of people who buy lottery tickets is explained through the words of Dr. Netpreeya Choomchaiyoo, a Thai counselling psychologist. Dr. Choomchaiyoo demonstrated that Thai people need excitement in this time of economic recession to go through a repetitive stressful life. Looking forward to the lottery price is another way for them to feel excited and for their body to release more endorphins and dopamine, the happy hormones.

Furthermore, the bandwagon effect causes some Thais, who are nurtured in the collective culture, to play the lottery despite their initial thoughts. The bandwagon effect people follow exactly what other people do partly because they want to be a part of their peers.

Some people play the lottery believing that the chances of winning are the same regardless of economic class. Though this is true, the price each person must pay is less equal than they think. As reported by BBC, the 10% of highest-income households in Thailand spent only 0.8% of their income on lottery tickets, while the 10% of lowest-income households spent 3.7% of their income. Lotteries appear to be a regressive tax of some kind, given that the percentage that people with lower incomes pay for this public revenue is higher.

The Bottom Line

Overall, though there are some positive aspects to the lottery, it is still a form of gambling with an extremely low chance of winning. Significantly, we should encourage financial literacy for them to use their knowledge for investment or other passive incomes. It may not be the simplest path, but it will be the long-term solution to improving the Thai people's economic standing.