Laos Moves to Restrict ‘Disordered’ Lottery System

Informal lotteries will be restricted or banned, and participation in foreign lotteries forbidden.

A screen grab from Lao television shows a drawing from the state lottery, Nov. 17, 2016.

Government authorities in Laos are moving to restrict informal and illegal lotteries in the one-party communist state, with one high-placed police source calling the situation at present “disordered” and “antisocial.”

On Aug. 17, the office of prime minister Thongloun Sisoulith sent a directive requesting the Ministry of Finance, which oversees the country’s legal state lottery, to work with the Ministry of Public Security to better manage the problem, sources told RFA’s Lao Service.

Drawings from the state lottery must now be reduced from two to one a week, with winnings handled in a more transparent manner, the directive said, adding that informal football lotteries and lottery chances purchased by short messaging service will now be closed down.

Scratch-card lotteries will be allowed to continue using cards already printed. But the number of places where these can be sold, and the quantities purchased, will be limited, with a government report later filed after existing stocks are sold.

Participation in foreign lotteries, such as the lottery held in neighboring Thailand, will be strictly investigated and forbidden, the directive said.

Laos’s lottery system as structured now is “disordered” and has contributed to “antisocial” behavior in the country, a high-ranking police officer in the capital Vientiane told RFA on Aug. 21.

“After studying this situation carefully, the government should be better able to restrict and control it,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Date not set

Also speaking to RFA, Lao deputy finance minister and state lottery supervisor Sila Viengkeo said that while the provisions of the Aug. 17 directive will be strictly enforced, a date for their implementation has not yet been set.

“As the supervising body, we must follow the government’s policy, and we will enforce it as soon as possible after the executive board of the Lao lottery meets to discuss it and sets an exact date.”

Accusations that the state lottery system lacks transparency are unfounded, Sila said.

“We have no problems, because we are inspected by an executive board of representatives from seven different government departments.”

“People say we aren’t transparent, but in fact we are.”

Reported and translated for RFA’s Lao Service by Ounkeo Souksavanh and Bounchanh Mouangkham. Written in English by Lillian Andemicael and Richard Finney.