Cash-strapped AP may try its luck at lottery

After eyeing control of liquor stores, the cash-strapped Andhra Pradesh government is now planning to revive the banned state-run Bhagyalakshmi lottery to try its luck in ramping up state revenues.

Faced with dwindling finances and the massive task of building a capital city ahead of it, the state government is forced to fall back on old methods for resource mobilization, which it had done away with in the past. “Andhra Pradesh is in a situation where it needs huge amount of money at a time when its revenue generation is at the lowest ebb. This calls for some innovation in mobilizing funds and hence the government is exploring all old and new methods of finding revenue sources,“ said Kambampati Rammohan Rao, AP representative in Delhi, who accompanied chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu to the nation's capital.

Stating that lottery could be a significant source of rev enue, an official in the home department pegged it at Rs 12,000 crore annually .

But revival of the lottery may not be easy for the government, especially after civil societies' argument at the Supreme Court in 2007, saying it was a `social menace.' Any move to revive it might trigger a backlash, experts warn.

Barring a few small states such as Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Nagaland, lotter ies were banned in 16 states, including Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Kerala. However, under Section 5 of the Lotteries (Regulation) Act, 1998, state governments are free to promote or prohibit the sale of tickets of lotteries organized, conducted or promoted by other states.

The state government had started its lottery in 1969.Then there were initially only two draws a year, which went up to 11 in 1970-71 and 24 in 1973-74. The number of lottery draws in the state grew to 304 in 1992-93. It increased to 2,306 in 2003-04, 2,698 in 2004-05 and 2,853 in 2005-06, leading to demands, especially from women, for a ban.

Sensitive to the gravity of the issue, the state government is studying the option carefully. Deputy chief minister N Chinnarajappa, who holds the home portfolio, said the government wants to go slow on it. “It is a right now loud thinking, we will discuss it at the cabinet level,“ said Chinnarajappa.

Excise minister Kollu Ravindar said the govern ment will adopt the same approach to the proposal of taking over liquor outlets in the state. However, he said it was almost decided that the government would run the liquor retail trade and the new excise policy would be in force from July 1.

Under the new policy , the government will take over all the 4,500 liquor shops in the state. It will appoint supervisors and salesmen at each shop. The shops will be connected with an integrated computer network, which will help monitor liquor sales online everyday by the AP Beverages Corporation Limited (APBCL), the official agency .

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